Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. Alexander Gustafsson: Complete Fight Preview

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The UFC on FOX 5 co-main event will feature a light heavyweight bout between former champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Alexander Gustafsson. This is a great fight stylistically, and we’ll get to see if Rua is still among the elite or if Gustafsson potentially becomes the next fighter to challenge Jon Jones for the belt.

Alexander Gustafsson (14-1) is coming off a fairly dominant unanimous decision win over Thiago Silva in his last outing. Gustafsson has nine wins via TKO/KO and three wins via submission. He’s a tall light heavyweight with long reach, very good movement, and striking that’s fairly accurate with multiple setup attacks. He’s still on a learning curve in regards to what it takes to become an elite light heavyweight. However, he has improved drastically since his lone loss to Phil Davis in April 2010.

Shogun Rua (21-6) is coming off a war in which he was able to put Brandon Vera away via TKO in the fourth round. Rua has 18 wins via TKO/KO and one submission victory to his credit. He’s a very aggressive fighter with a muay thai base, great leg kicks, a great chin, and is versed in jiu-jitsu on the ground. Rua has taken a lot of damage over the years, and that coupled with multiple knee surgeries has slowed him down a bit as well as affecting his cardio. He’ll still be Gustafsson’s biggest test to date on Saturday night.

The key to this fight will be range and the footwork of Gustafsson against the aggressive style of Rua coupled with Rua’s cardio.

Rua will have to overcome the reach advantage that Gustafsson will have, and he’ll need to do that with his famed leg kicks. Rua usually comes forward with punches(with no real intent to land them) to setup a devastating leg kick. I think we’ll see a bit of that because those leg kicks will slow down the movement/footwork of Gustafsson while keeping Rua out of the range of Gustafsson to counter effectively. Normally I would advise Rua to come forward and force Gustafsson to fight on his heels, but Gustafsson has shown that he can strike fairly effectively while moving backwards or circling out to set up an angle to counter. Rua should not waste any energy trying to take Gustafsson down in this fight. Rua is versed on the ground, but he doesn’t have an attacking top game in regards to jiu-jitsu. If he takes Gustafsson down, I’m not sure he can keep him down anyways. So he should keep the fight standing and attack the legs of Gustafsson to slow him down and then go from there.

Gustafsson simply needs to use his range and footwork in this fight which should lead him to victory. Rua will be there for him to hit all night since Rua has absorbed 219 significant strikes in his last four fights! Gustafsson will need to circle out when Rua attacks to create the angles to counter effectively. He could also bring the fight to Rua since Rua is content with exchanging in the pocket at times. I would avoid the latter method because it raise the chances of Rua landed a huge power shot that could change the fight completely. I expect Gustafsson to use a lot of movement which should frustrate Rua, and also zap quite a bit of his cardio while he’s trying to keep up with Gustafsson.

Rua could certainly win this fight, but I don’t think it’s likely. I think wear and tear, age, and multiple knee surgeries have taken their toll over the years. There’s a reason why he fought life and death against Brandon Vera, taking four rounds to finish him. Not to mention that Vera is a prime training partner of Gustafsson who has probably shared some good information on how to fight Rua.

Gustafsson finishes a tired Shogun in the third round or wins a unanimous decision.

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