Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE
How can Shogun go from out striking Chuck Liddell and Lyoto Machida with poise and grace, to swinging wild against Dan Henderson and Brandon Vera? Jack Slack addresses some of the issues with Shogun's game ahead of his bout with Alexander Gustafsson at UFC on Fox 5.
Mauricio Rua, mostly known as 'Shogun', is a fighter whom I have written about at great length in the past but remains one of the most requested figures for a technical breakdown. Many fans find Shogun incredibly confusing because he can go from out striking Chuck Liddell and Lyoto Machida with poise and grace, to swinging like an amateur against Dan Henderson and Brandon Vera. Of course with Shogun there are always the effects of his recurring knee injuries to consider and how they affect his conditioning training, but conditioning and shaky knees don't make a fighter completely forget how to fight.
In today's cheat sheet I will try to amalgamate some of the analyses that I have made of Shogun in the past, and use them to project some possible difficulties he and Alexander Gustafsson might cause each other at UFC on Fox 5 on December 8th.
Shogun's Cross Counter
Those of you who are familiar with my early writings will remember the pieces which I wrote on the Cross Counter and how it might be the most effective counter punch out there (spare perhaps the right straight inside of a left hook which Badr Hari used to drop Alistair Overeem). The cross counter is a right hook thrown with a dip to the left but it is not an overhand. The overhand is simply a swing at the opponent and is the kind that we see extremely commonly among MMA fighters - Leonard Garcia in particular has a significant history of violence against the air around him.
A cross counter is a counter punch, thrown with anticipation of the opponent being committed to a punch. Normally this will be a jab (because that is how most fighters lead) and the cross counter will travel across the jab and strike the jabber in the temple, hence the name. The same movement will work equally well, nay perhaps better, against an opponent who leads with a power punch - because they will be closer and more committed to punching with weight. Here are a couple of examples of Shogun using his right hook to counter his opponents coming forward.
In the top two stills Shogun ducks inside of a Machida left straight (Machida is a southpaw so this is pretty much the same as a cross counter for a jab) and lands an arcing right hand on Machida's temple while Machida's own punch travels over Shogun's shoulder. In the bottom two stills Shogun directly counters Forrest Griffin's attempt at a right hand lead. Timed well, this punch is almost a guaranteed damaging connection.
Shogun subscribes to much the same methodology that Glover Teixeira uses - walking forward and attempting to counter or lead with the right hook at every opportunity. Just like Glover, when Shogun's opponents can hang around past the first few connections, he starts to run out of ideas fast and begins to look very limited. Remember - any time that Shogun leads with a right hand and it isn't a response to his opponent punching, it isn't a counter, it is swinging wildly.
As I wrote in The Weaknesses of Shogun:
This should be obvious to most who watch Shogun fight, but to those who had never noticed it, Shogun lacks a jab. An excellent left hook, a vicious right hook and a brutal right uppercut are all excellent weapons in Shogun's punching arsenal, but they are always going to be naturally slower than the jab. Mauricio Rua has scarcely ever used a jab and even when he has, he has rarely used it effectively; more as an afterthought of something that he be doing while looking for his big kicks, knees and punches. Shogun throw a jab, as is evidenced by footage of him on the mitts, Thai pads, heavybag or even in sparring, it's more that he doesn't seem to understand the importance of it come fight time.
Shogun's desire to lead with a right hand at every opportunity has been responsible for him looking bad in his last two performances far more than his conditioning has. Because Shogun has grown up in the sport and is used to being faster and more aggressive than anyone he fights he has never learned basic strategy or even to use a jab.
Against Dan Henderson, Shogun's reliance on natural speed which just isn't there any more was clear. Check out this gif!
The jab exists because there is a quite significant portion of space in front of a fighter which only the lead hand when extended fully can punch at. Shogun's constant attempts to lead with a right hand on offence, rather than as a counter, often lead to him running face first through that space.
It is worth noting that Alexander Gustafsson is at his most effective when his opponents chase him with wild striking, as the overenthusiastic Thiago Silva found out almost immediately in their bout as he chased Gustafsson with a lead right overhand and ate a beautiful uppercut for his troubles. Here's a tasty gif of that.
The Cheat Hook