Each week, FightCove gives a rundown of one fighter that competes under the ZUFFA (UFC or Strikeforce) umbrella. Said fighter can be on an eight fight win streak, 11-fight losing steak or fought his last three to a draw, it doesn’t matter.
There is no prize, belt or reward for being the FightCove "Fighter of the Week". No one is adding the distinction to their resume or printing this out to hang on their wall. However, it does provide the opportunity to look a little closer at some of the best MMA fighters in the world.
This week’s spotlight will focus on none other than former UFC light heavyweight champion, 2005 PRIDE Grand Prix champion and UFC 139 main event competitor, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
Mauricio Rua was born November 25, 1981 in Curitiba, Brazil. Rua currently lives in Curitiba, where he trains at his own gym –Universidade da Luta (UDL)– with talents fighters such as Andre Amade, Mauricio Veio and his brother, Murilo "Ninja" Rua. He competes in the light heavyweight division where he has fought against, and defeated, some of the best competitors in the world. The former UFC light heavyweight champion sports a 20-5 record that includes wins over former UFC champions Chuck Liddell, Lyoto Machida, Forrest Griffin and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. A versatile muay-thai attack has led the Brazilian to 17 career knockouts, 15 of them in the first round. Rua possesses some of the most powerful strikes in the division, he prefers to keep the fight standing where he can utilize that power, hurt his opponents and finish them with some of the most deadly ground-and-pound in the sport. The 29-year-old is one of the best to ever compete in the weight class, and he will look to add another legendary name to his record this Saturday night when he takes on former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, Dan Henderson.
Recognized as one of the top three fighters in his weight class, Rua is of the most lethal muay-thai practitioners in the sport. He started training muay-thai at the age of 15, and has developed a skill set around that base to become one of the most dangerous fighters in the weight class. While Rua’s standup ability should be the primary concern for any opponent, he is no slouch on the ground. He started training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at 17, and is now a black belt under Nino Schembri. His decision to turn to professional mixed martial arts did not take long, Rua joined the world renowned Chute Boxe Academy to train under legendary master Rafael Cordero. At Chute Boxe, Rua trained alongside MMA legends Wanderlei Silva and Anderson Silva and developed the killer instinct that has made him "Shogun".
Rua made his MMA debut in 2002 at Meca World Vale Tudo 7, defeating Rafael Capoeira by first round knockout. In fact, he won four of his first five MMA fights, the loan loss coming to Renato "Babalu" Sobral in a fight that ended with a controversial submission. While that loss was disappointing for Rua and brought an end to his undefeated record, it was the effort in the loss that earned the Brazilian an invitation to compete in for the PRIDE Fighting Championships.
While competing in Japan for the now defunct PRIDE organization, Rua built the resume that has earned him a place among MMA’s elite. He won 12 of his 13 fights under the PRIDE banner, with the only loss coming at the hands of Mark Coleman due to a dislocated elbow suffered by Rua on a Coleman takedown. His highlight moment in PRIDE was unquestionable the run he put together to win the 2005 PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix. Coming into the tournament with only nine professional bouts and at the tender age of 23, Rua beat a gauntlet of the worlds best light heavyweight to earn the tournament crown.
Victories over Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Alistair Overeem and Ricardo Arona turned Rua into a superstar. He would fight five more times under the PRIDE banner before signing with the UFC in 2007. Ranked by most as the number one light heavyweight in the world, Rua would make his UFC debut September 22nd, 2007 against former UFC light heavyweight champion, Forrest Griffin.
In the fight with Griffin, Rua hardly looked like the relentless striker he was in PRIDE. He did not have the cardio to keep up with Griffin and in a shocking upset, Rua would be submitted with a rear-naked chokein the third round. It became known after the fight that Rua had suffered a knee injury and would undergo elective surgery. From that point on, knee injuries have plagued Rua. The surgery after the Griffin fight was the first of three since coming to the UFC.
After losing his initial UFC bout, Rua has compiled a 4-2 record inside the octagon. He defeated UFC Hall-of-Fame inductees Mark Coleman and Chuck Liddell to earn a shot at Lyoto Machida, who was light heavyweight champion at the time. Rua would suffer a decision loss to Machida, however, the fight was extremely controversial. UFC President Dana White granted Rua an immediate rematch.
Rua would make the best of the rematch with Machida, winning by first round knockout to earn the UFC title. It was the accumulation of years of hard work and undoubtedly the highlight moment of in the career of "Shogun". Unfortunately, his title reign was short-lived. Rua underwent another knee surgery after defeating Machida, and would sit on the sidelines for close to a year before returning to the octagon for his first title defense. He would lose the belt to current champion Jon "Bones" Jones in a fight where he looked sloppy and out of shape, resulting in a dismal performance.
"Shogun" has already began his climb back up the light heavyweight ladder. He got the rematch he was waiting years for against Forrest Griffin last August at UFC 134. The fight was polar opposite to the first, Rua showed the precision, power and lethal ground-and-pound him that made him a champion as he defeated Griffin by first round knockout.
The win was one of the most impressive performances of Rua’s seven fight UFC career, he will now look to continue his momentum as his next bout comes against fellow PRIDE veteran, Dan Henderson in the main event of UFC 139 this weekend. Both Henderson and Rua fought in PRIDE for years but their names never crossed paths. Now they will. After a four fight stint in Strikeforce, Henderson is riding high in his return to the UFC after knocking out Fedor Emelianenko last June. Rua and Henderson have similar styles; both like to stand in the middle of the octagon and exchange blows until their opponent hits the ground. All the ingredients for a highlight reel finish.
Rua has struggled to find consistency since coming to the UFC over four years ago. He has faced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Healthy and ready to make another run at the UFC light heavyweight championship, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua will begin look to continue his quest to regain the title with a win on Saturday night.
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