Looking Back at Shogun Rua's Second Fight Against Mark Coleman

Why did Shogun have trouble with Mark Coleman just 9 months before going 25 minutes with Lyoto Machida?  It’s an interesting question that begs multiple viewings of his fight with Coleman.

Throughout the fight, Coleman has no problem taking Shogun down.  For all his skill, one of Shogun’s flaws is that he tends to let his opponents dictate where his fights take place.  By the end of the first round, Shogun was tired.  His kicks, knees, and punches had all slowed down to the point where he was landing at will but he wasn’t able to put Coleman away.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this fight was Shogun’s inability to submit Mark Coleman.  Coleman put himself in a lot of bad positions, and has no jiu-jitsu defense of note.  His main defense is his strength, and that was enough to stay out of submissions.

The Coleman that showed up for this fight was no different than the Coleman who fought Randy Couture in February of this year.  He kept his hands down, got hit at will, and moved straight back whenever he got hit.  Coleman’s wrestling kept him in the fight well into the third round, and he actually landed a number of punches throughout the fight.  It was never close, but it’s surprising how often Coleman was able to land, and how easily he was able to take Shogun down.

After his last 3 performances, most observers and fans think Shogun has solved his cardio issues.  That may be the case, but I remain unconvinced.  We see this kind of thing happen with BJ Penn all the time—after he gasses and the media slams him for his unwillingness to train, he’ll dominate two fights in a row without looking tired, and everyone will deem his cardio problems solved.  Then he gasses in a tough, gritty fight and everyone assumes he didn’t train hard enough.  The truth of the matter is that fighters tend not to gas when they control the pace of the fight, especially if the fight stays standing.

Shogun has had two extremely competitive fights featuring lots of grappling, clinch work, and time on the ground in the UFC.  He’s gassed in both of them.  I’m sure his injuries contributed, but I am not even close to being willing to assume that his cardio issues are resolved.  We’ll find out the truth about his conditioning when he’s forced to fight a tough wrestler.

That brings me back to the Coleman fight.  It’s convenient to dismiss it as an aberration, but it may portend a short title reign for Shogun if his opponents look to turn fights with him into grinding, slow affairs.  Yesterday a lot of people dismissed the idea of Shogun fighting Randy Couture, but Randy is a complete nightmare compared to the Coleman that Shogun struggled against 16 months ago.  Would Shogun he be able to handle someone like Rashad Evans if Evans decided to use his wrestling to control the fight?

For whatever reason, fans love to deem fighters unbeatable well before they’ve earned such a reputation.  Jose Aldo has been deemed untouchable with only one title defense, and BJ Penn had the same kind of reputation despite a demonstrated recent history of inconsistent performances.  After UFC 98, the discussion about Lyoto Machida was such that you’d have thought there was no reason to even have him defend his title.  He was supposedly going to dominate for years, and people were already talking about him fighting Fedor Emelianenko or Brock Lesnar.

For better or for worse, Anderson Silva, Fedor Emelianenko, and Georges St. Pierre are the exception, not the norm.  Shogun is a dynamic, excellent fighter, but I’d be surprised if we’re in for any sort of extended era.  People are already calling for a super fight with Anderson Silva.  Personally, I’d like to see him beat a good light heavyweight wrestler before we’re ready to crown him as a top pound for pound fighter.

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