At just 27 years old (or young), Mauricio "Shogun" Rua has already achieved more in his seven-year Mixed Martial Arts career than most have in their entire lifetime. He’s stepped into the fighting arena twenty-one times as a professional, walking out with a victory on eighteen of those occasions. And in those eighteen victories he has defeated the likes of many notable fighters. But it hasn’t been the fact that he’s beaten them, it’s been the way he’s beaten them. I think it’s time that we all took a look back at Shogun’s career and, at the same time, take a look at what might lie ahead for the uber-talented Brazilian phenom.
Shogun made his Mixed Martial Arts debut at the tender age of 20 years old when he took on Rafael Capoeira at Meca World Vale Tudo 7 in Curitiba, Brazil. A lot has changed in the time span of seven years. Two of the biggest changes for Shogun have been his height and weight from his debut fight to the fight he most recently fought against Chuck Liddell. At the time of his debut, Shogun stood 5’11½" tall and weighed in at 174 pounds. That means that in seven years Shogun’s body has grown and developed into a 6’1", 205-pound walking bulldozer of destructive intentions. In that debut, he delivered a highlight reel head kick knockout of Rafael Capoeira that let the world know that a new Brazilian Buzzsaw was about to make a name for himself.
Shogun’s next fight was against Angelo Antonio at Meca World Vale Tudo 8 where he proceeded to soccer kick his opponent out of the ring, basically, in just 55 seconds. His third professional fight took place at Meca World Vale Tudo 9, an event in which he faced former teammate Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos. At the time, Cyborg had a 7-3 professional record. All ten of his fights, and all seven of his victories, were stopped in the first round. This proved to be one of the most exciting fights in Shogun’s brilliant, and long, career. His next fight(s) took him to a place he had never been before.
Shogun arrived in Denver, Colorado for the IFC: Global Domination event on September 6th of 2003 and competed twice. His first fight was against Eric Wanderlei, whom he fought into the second round. It was the first time in Shogun’s short career that he had fought past the first round. It was a fight in which Shogun escaped numerous submission attempts and eventually finished his opponent off with a multitude of punches to the face. After defeating Eric Wanderlei, Shogun was matched up against twenty-three fight veteran Renato "Babalu" Sobral. In a very back and forth contest, it took Sobral a good while into the third round before locking in the fight ending guillotine choke that handed Shogun his first career loss. But, as they say, losses do help you learn more than wins. They help you grow as a fighter and as a person. And growing is exactly what Shogun did.
After seeing the enormous potential that Shogun displayed, and already featuring his good friend/teammate Wanderlei Silva, PRIDE signed Shogun to a contract. He made his debut at PRIDE Bushido 1 back on October 5th, 2003. He was part of Royce Gracie’s Team Brazil and knocked out Team Japan’s Akira Shoji nearly four minutes into the opening stanza. A few months later, he knocked out Akihiro Gono at PRIDE Bushido 2. And, for good measure, he knocked out Yasuhito Namekawa at PRIDE Bushido 5 while knocking out Hiromitsu Kanehara at PRIDE 29: Fists of Fury. It gave Shogun a 4-0 record for his new employer and an overall record of 8-1 with eight knockouts. He had already won in three continents by the time he was 21 years old and was showing no signs of slowing down.
In the summer of 2005, PRIDE announced a sixteen fighter tournament to crown their 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix Champion. In the first round, Shogun drew one of the most feared 205-pound fighters in the world. His name was Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. He had compiled a 10-4 record in PRIDE before meeting up with Shogun on that April day. At the time of their meeting, Rampage had loads more experience against tough fighters such as Marvin Eastman, Wanderlei Silva, Sakuraba, Chuck Liddell, Murilo Bustamante, Igor Vovchanchyn, Kevin Randleman, Ricardo Arona, Ikuhisa Minowa, and Shogun’s older brother Murlio Rua. Shogun set out to avenge the controversial loss his brother suffered at the hands of Rampage just two months earlier. And avenge it he did. In one of the most brutal and savage beatdowns the MMA world has ever seen, Shogun unleashed a vicious barrage of knees and kicks that sent Rampage cowering through the ropes as the referee stopped the fight. The youngest entrant into the Middleweight Grand Prix put the entire PRIDE world on notice with his victory over Rampage. But the best was yet to come.
Over the next three fights in the exciting Middleweight Grand Prix, Shogun proceeded to punch, kick, and knee his way to superstardom. He demolished, smashed, and systematically destroyed the likes of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Alistair Overeem, and Ricardo Arona. On that August night, after dispatching of Overeem and Arona, Shogun was crowned the 2005 PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix Champion. And he was only just 23 years old. He had taken the Mixed Martial Arts world by storm. The Supernova of Strikes was born.
His next fight was at PRIDE 31: Unbreakable against Mark Coleman. And to be honest, what an ironic name for the event because during that fight, on an attempted takedown by Coleman, Shogun dislocated his elbow and was awarded a loss for it. Coleman celebrated as if he had won the Gold Medal for Douchebaggery and went ballistic all over the ring. It even prompted him to shove the referee out of the way, step on someone’s neck, and act in a manner befitting an aging rock star after realizing his time at the top was near the end. After recovering from his injury, Shogun proceeded to rack up four victories which consisted of wins over Cyrille Diabate, Kevin Randleman, Kazuhiro Nakamura, and previous victim Alistair Overeem. Proving that the first time wasn’t a fluke, Shogun delivered one of the greatest flying guard-pass punches of all-time as he knocked Overeem out yet again. It was after this that the UFC came calling after purchasing PRIDE.
In his UFC debut at UFC 76: Knockout, Shogun drew the challenge of facing UFC icon, and beloved son, Forrest Griffin. In a mostly one-sided affair, outside of a hotly contested first round, Griffin eventually choked out a supremely gassed Shogun during the closing stages of the third and final round. It marked Shogun’s first non-controversial loss since his loss to Renato Sobral some four years earlier. After suffering through two knee surgeries, and a long road to get back into the octagon, Shogun returned to the cage against familiar nemesis Mark Coleman. It was three years since these two had met up at PRIDE 31, but it was one of the fights that Shogun needed to prove to himself that the first meeting was a fluke and nothing more than a freak injury. In a three round battle of men who were clearly not fully in shape, for obviously different reasons, Shogun extracted his revenge via third round knockout from a litany of punches to the face of a weary Coleman. Shogun received criticism for the way he looked during this victory and drew the unenviable task of facing UFC legend, future Hall of Famer, and icon Chuck Liddell next.
In what might easily be his most impressive, and important, victory in his young but storied career, Shogun knocked out Chuck Liddell with roughly thirty seconds remaining in the first round during UFC 97: Redemption. And, for Shogun, redemption might actually be what he earned with this performance. After a long, winding road that featured many different and drastic turns along the way, Shogun had finally risen back to the top of the preverbal mountain. He earned respect for his victory and seems, for the moment, to have pushed himself back into the conversation of deserving contenders to the UFC Light Heavyweight championship that is currently held by Rashad Evans. But the real question is, what lies next for the Brazilian Buzzsaw?
Shogun recently stated that he would like to rematch against Forrest Griffin, in order to avenge his earlier loss. However, his next opponent is undecided and could come from a host of different areas. It could be Keith Jardine, the multi-talented striker who holds decisive victories over Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin, Brandon Vera, and Wilson Gouveia. Not to mention that he was mere seconds away from defeating Quinton Jackson, one of Shogun’s previous victims, via decision had he not been knocked down late in that fight. Or, just perhaps, he will draw the challenge of Rich Franklin, who will be fighting Shogun’s great friend Wanderlei Silva at UFC 99: The Comeback. That is, of course, if Franklin does win that fight. All three men are currently ranked in the top ten in the Light Heavyweight division and would pose different and unique situations for Shogun. A win over any of them would surely mean a title shot for Shogun. But then there is another option. A choice that hasn’t really been discussed. Should Dan Henderson defeat Michael Bisping when they meet up, what would be next for Henderson? Would he be granted that rematch, and title shot, against Anderson Silva? Or, would he move back to 205 and try to climb that ladder? That would be an interesting fight considering Henderson has never been knocked out and has had some wars with Shogun’s friend Wanderlei Silva. Then again, with Rampage making a return sometime later this summer, would he be interested in getting a much wanted rematch against Rua? A fight that would easily be one of the year’s most exciting, compelling, and intriguing stories heading into a fight. This is all just food for thought.
As stated at the beginning of this long, and probably annoying, diatribe, Shogun has fought twenty-one times in his seven year career. Of his nineteen different opponents, he has defeated seventeen of them. Only two men still hold victories over him that have yet to be resolved, Forrest Griffin and Renato Sobral. In total, the record of Shogun’s opponents comes out to a combined 320-170-17 (.631). It’s not that Shogun has been announced as the victor eighteen different times, but rather the manner in which he has done so. He’s finished sixteen of his eighteen victories by knockout (fifteen) or submission (one). To do that against fighters with a 63% win rate is not only unheard of but flat out insane. The man is a walking force of destruction. And whatever lies ahead of him only means bad things for the men who stand across from him.
It’s not often that you see a talent the level of Shogun enter the arena. And it’s not often you see that talent live up to its hype. But he has. And he’ll continue to do so for as long as he competes. I think it really is about time people take a step back and look at what this young man, who still probably hasn’t even hit the prime of his career, has accomplished. If this was too long for some of you to read then I apologize. But I couldn’t let one of Mixed Martial Arts’ greatest weapons and entertainers go a minute longer without getting the entire due and respect that he has earned throughout his career. So, hats off to you Shogun. You truly are one of the greatest fighters the Mixed Martial Arts world has ever seen.