Not many fighters have the resume of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. At 23, He began a meteoric rise through the MMA world when he beat notables like Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Noguiera, Alistair Overeem, and Ricardo Arona to go on and win the Pride Middleweight Grand Prix, becoming the youngest PRIDE champion in history.
Fast forward, he had a rocky start to his UFC career. Coming in a heavy favorite in his first UFC fight, the world seemed worried about Forrest Griffin, who was to introduce Shogun to the UFC in Mauricio’s first bout. In a fight that shocked the world, Forrest Griffin submitted the top light-heavyweight in the world in the third round. Shogun had a long, but successful road from then on. He battered Mark Coleman, who had fought him before in Pride, and was given a tough challenge in UFC Hall of Famer Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell. Against the superstar in the decline, Shogun Rua delivered a left hook that caught Chuck on the chin, causing him to collapse to the mat before trademarked hammerfists ended the fight in Rua’s favor.
It appeared Shogun was back, and after was awarded the title shot against Lyoto Machida. This fight brought the Shogun well-remembered, using his Muay Thai skill against Machida’s family brand of Karate to punish Machida’s lead leg and body with kicks. Rua had appeared as fresh as a daisy throughout the fight, putting an end to talks of his cardio being bad. The night ended in controversy as Machida took a unanimous decision, retaining the title, but Rua was granted instant rematch due to the closeness of the fight.
Shogun came out swinging in the second fight with Machida, showing the aggression he was known for years before. With an over-the-top hook, he caught Machida above the ear, sending him to the mat. With brutal, follow-up ground and pound in the mount, Shogun knew he had the title, preventing further punishment to Machida and getting up before the referee had to stop it. That night, a new 205-lbs. champion was born, looking as good as he ever did.
Since then, he’s lost his title to the ever-dominant Jon “Bones” Jones, looking sluggish after receiving a flying knee to the face early in the first round. During the fight, he was neutralized by a bigger, stronger Jones and punished on the feet and ground. After that, he was given the opportunity to gain revenge from Forrest Griffin at UFC Rio. Shogun did just that, dribbling Forrest’s head on the mat with hammerfists in the first round.
In the UFC 139 main event this Saturday Rua will take on the MMA legend Dan Henderson. The former Olympian and Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion has been tearing through the competition in the promotion, taking out Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante, Renato “Babalu” Sobral, and former top pound-for-pound king and Pride Heavyweight Champion, Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko.
In a dream matchup for hardcore MMA fans, these two Pride legends will collide in the octagon, both known for huge knockout power and exciting style.
In recent years, Shogun has been plagued with knee surgeries in his UFC career, leaving people in question as to his condition for each fight. Did he fully recover from injuries? Was he able to train as he should for this fight? Will we see the Shogun who tore through the Middleweight Grand Prix? Will we see the Shogun who gassed against Forrest Griffin?
Shogun has always been known as a man who could walk in the greatest light-heavyweight we’ve seen to date, or a falling star. This weekend, we will see who walks through the cage doors against Dan Henderson, but we can all be rest assured: this will be a great fight that will define someone’s already storied legacy.