No one likes to see their sports heroes age out. There’s a large swath of basketball fans who insist the last time they saw Michael Jordan don a basketball jersey was when he scored the winning jumper over Bryon Russell in 1998 to secure the Chicago Bulls their sixth title in eight years. Jordan’s years with the Washington Wizards doesn’t exist in their minds.
There is no sport more cruel to the heroes of yesteryear than MMA. Whereas Jordan would get crossed up by a younger player whom he would have schooled in his peak. He also gets a chance to answer back with a bucket in the very next play. In MMA, legends are getting KO’d and badly hurt when Father Time begins to catch up with them. Thus, MMA fans have learned hard lessons over the years, rarely celebrating a legend’s swan song as happy endings are a rarity.
UFC 283 marks the final chapter in the long and illustrious career of Mauricio Rua, better known as Shogun Rua. The UFC recognizes his decline as well, as they are keeping him off the main card, allowing fans unable to fork up $80 for the main card to watch him one last time. Personally, Shogun’s last fight isn’t the reason to tune in to the prelims. Gregory Rodrigues has been a consistent violence machine and Gabriel Bonfim is one of the most hyped prospects to join the organization in the last little while. In other words, there’s reason to tune in if you don’t like the typical MMA ending to a career.
For the early prelims preview, click here.
- For many, the last time they saw what they consider to be peak Shogun Rua was in 2007... 16 years ago when he beat Alistair Overeem. Shogun has remained an active fighter since that time, even winning the UFC Light Heavyweight title in 2010. In other words, the version of Shogun who won the UFC title isn’t considered prime Shogun. Injuries sapped Shogun of what made him so special and what we currently have is an aged legend who should have hung things up years ago. Now, he doesn’t have the explosion and power he used to. In fact, those factors have diminished so much that he doesn’t appear capable any longer of making up for that with the veteran savvy that only comes with years of experience. It isn’t so easy as to tell him to just retire either. Fighting is all he’s known for the entirety of his adult life and this is how he has made his living. The UFC is doing everything in their power to send off the legend on a good note by pitting him with Ihor Potieria. Potieria is a decent prospect at 205, but not one that looks like a future contender by any means. Regardless, he’s aggressive with his attack, throwing a swarm of punches and looking for takedowns. Given Shogun couldn’t stop the takedowns from Paul Craig, it isn’t hard to believe Potieria will put Shogun on his back. In other words, it’s plausible Shogun is so shot that he can’t score a win over Potieria. We occasionally get happy endings in MMA. That’s a rare occurrence. I’m not discounting a Shogun victory entirely, but history has never been kind to those at or near the end of their road in combat sports. Potieria via TKO of RD2
- I can’t help but feel for Gregory Rodrigues. The Brazilian was on the verge of the biggest fight of his career when Brad Tavares was forced to pull out just over a week before the event. To the UFC’s credit, they did find a replacement so Rodrigues could stay on the card and collect a paycheck. But it doesn’t seem like Rodrigues will get a boost in his stock should he secure a win over Brunno Ferreira. Even worse, Ferreira is a dangerous enough opponent that this feels like a contest that is all risk with no gain for Rodrigues. Not that Rodrigues isn’t a dangerous fighter himself. Three of his four UFC wins saw early stoppages as he has proven to be a potent power puncher. Even scarier for his opposition, Rodrigues’ BJJ game is considered to be his base. Ferreira has a similar skillset in that he’s heavy handed with a lauded ground game, but there’s a couple of key differences. Ferreira hasn’t faced the same level of competition and he’s a good five inches shorter than the lanky Rodrigues. It isn’t like Rodrigues necessarily uses his length to his greatest advantage, but it will ensure Ferreira is forced to be within Rodrigues’ range... not a place he’ll want to be. Plus, the furthest Ferreira has ever gone into a fight is just over a minute into the second round. Rodrigues isn’t a model of stamina, but he has gone the distance and remained dangerous late into a fight. Rodrigues is most likely to win, but Ferreira is a dangerous replacement for Tavares. Rodrigues via TKO of RD2
- Thiago Moises better not fall asleep at the wheel against Melquizael Costa. Sure, Costa isn’t on the level of Guram Kutateladze, the man he’s stepping in on short notice to replace. But Costa is a skilled prospect who is athletic and reckless enough that he could catch Moises off guard and secure a massive upset in his UFC debut. Granted, Moises isn’t one who comes across as overbrimming with confidence, but it’s hard to believe someone who has faced the talents Moises has won’t walk into a contest with a debuting prospect thinking he has it in the bag. Costa fights with a flare that could make him a crowd favorite in short order, offering spinning attacks and a reckless abandon that makes $50K checks a distinct possibility. Of course, that style of fight also opens up his defenses quite a bit. Moises can fall into long bouts of inactivity, but he also knows how to expose a hole if presented with one. Plus, if his most recent performance against Christos Giagos is any indication, Moises’ takedowns are starting to come around in order for him to exploit his greatest strength: his grappling. Given Costa struggled with Italo Gomes’ ground game – someone not of Moises’ caliber – Moises should find the win. Moises via submission of RD2
- Despite just three UFC contests under his belt, it’s reasonable to fear that we’ve already seen the best Mounir Lazzez has to offer. The Tunisian fighter is already 35 and was never a top athlete to begin with. Nevertheless, it would be foolish to write him off already. Not short by any means, Lazzez has an unusually long reach for his size and knows how to use it to the greatest extent possible. I don’t just mean keeping his opponent at bay with jabs and kicks either; Lazzez manages to put a lot of power behind those strikes. What Lazzez lacks is the athleticism to hang with the top dogs. Gabriel Bonfim has that. The newcomer may not be able to match Lazzez in reach, but he rivals his technique. More promising for the Brazilian, he certainly has the edge in ground credentials. Bonfim will have to careful navigating the distance for takedowns on Lazzez. Lazzez has a well-earned reputation for knees in close quarters. Then again, Bonfim has faced competition comparable to Lazzez and showed himself well. In fact, the composure Bonfim has shown is beyond his 25 years. Making his UFC in Brazil is a lot of weight on the shoulders of the youngster. Walking into the pit of ravenous fans chanting “You’re going to die” is going to be a lot of weight for Lazzez too. I think Bonfim is better prepared for that weight. Bonfim via decision