Decorated former UFC and Pride champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is at a career crossroads of sorts.
Sitting at No. 9 in the rankings heading into his bout with No. 10 Ovince St. Preux in the main event of this Saturday night’s (November 8, 2014) UFC Fight Night 56 from Uberlandia, Brazil, Rua is in serious need of a win if he wants to have any chance of retaining any relevancy in the UFC.
The Brazilian slugger has suffered defeat in six out of his last 10 UFC bouts, his latest a crushing third round knockout in his rematch with Dan Henderson at March’s UFC Fight Night 38. Shogun was dominating the fight up until a massive right hook from Henderson that forced him into surgery for a broken nose.
Shogun’s family wanted him to retire from fighting after the loss, but he’s fighting this weekend. He’ll also coach the fourth season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Brazil against legendary former middleweight champion Anderson Silva, but the two won’t fight at the end of the season.
Rua still believes he’s only two fights away from a title shot, but in truth, that probably just isn’t the case. Despite his obvious drawing power as a former champion who puts on all-out wars, Shogun’s time as a true title contender is probably over.
Although he’s only 32 years old (he’ll be 33 later this month), the wear and tear of countless battles against the world’s best martial artists have left their toll in the form of several knee surgeries that have sapped his potential.
He’s also unable to take as many punches as he did as a 23-year-old bruiser in Pride. Luckily for him, St. Preux doesn’t have the knockout power that his original opponent Jimi Manuwa, who withdrew with a broken foot, did.
But Rua was knocked out by Henderson, who was fading fast with three straight losses prior to their rematch. Rua’s last win is over James Te Huna, who lost his last fight to Nate Marquardt.
Shogun undoubtedly deserves endless respect for his contribution to the sport, but he is becoming more of a pioneer than a contender in today’s developing light heavyweight landscape.
Many have speculated that Shogun would cut down to middleweight like his old rival Lyoto Machida did, but Rua apparently wants none of it. He could have a tough time dealing with the much larger St. Preux in the grappling department, but he does hold a massive experience edge.
That’s what makes this bout such a telling one for Rua. A loss will have the masses calling for his retirement, and a win will just mean he’ll have work to do with another Top 10-ranked challenge.
To put it in perspective, Daniel Cormier is the current title contender at light heavyweight. He ragdolled “Hendo” en route to a brutalizing submission in the co-main event of May’s UFC 173, and it’s hard to believe that the same thing wouldn’t happen to Shogun.
He’s already lost to Alexander Gustafsson, and “The Mauler” is focused on getting another title shot. Bouts against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson or Phil Davis wouldn’t see the odds in his favor.
In short, the future doesn’t look all that bright for Shogun. It’s going to take a classic performance to get back on track, and that would only be the start of a necessary streak. Rua’s body probably won’t be able to stand up to that sort of punishment, and at this point, neither can his chin.
Are you picking to Rua to get past St. Preux this Saturday? If so, where does he go from there?