To say Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is at a crossroads in his career is definitely an accurate statement.
There was once a time where Shogun was one of, if not the best, light heavyweights in the world. He was the man who ran through such names as Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Ricardo Arona, Alistair Overeem and Antonio Rogerio Nogueria in what many people consider the greatest light heavyweight tournament of all time: Pride 2003 Middleweight Grand Prix.
Despite his unparalleled success in Pride, his accomplishments have been mixed in the UFC. After getting choked out by Forrest Griffin in his UFC debut, Shogun was able to get together a pair of knockout victories and then knock out Lyoto Machida to claim the light heavyweight belt for his own. He lost the belt on his very first defense to the wrecking ball that is Jon Jones.
Since Shogun lost the belt, he has truly shown his brilliance in only one of his past four fights — that fight is also one that he lost.
At UFC 139, Shogun and Dan Henderson went to war for five full rounds. Each man had flashes of brilliance, but I believe Shogun came out with the more impressive performance. In the third round, he took a bomb of a right hand that broke half of his face. Please re-read that sentence. In the third round, he took a bomb of a right hand that broke half of his face.
That was a right hand from Henderson. That right hand put Wanderlei Silva, Fedor Emelianenko and others directly to sleep. He battled through it and even went as far as to dominate the fourth and fifth rounds. It was a display of skill and heart that Shogun fans always knew he had.
Now, at UFC Fight Night, he faces Chael Sonnen: a man who is 0-3 in his past three fights, but still highly dangerous and highly popular. Is Shogun going to show up in true warrior fashion? Will his fans once again relish in the aggressiveness of his once-feared Chute Boxe style? My guess is that he will.
This is a very big fight for Shogun; it is his fight to stay relevant in the division. If he shows up and finishes Sonnen, then he is only one or two wins away from another title shot. The time is right for Shogun to make a second run. It is obvious that the UFC brass like him. They understand that he can draw fans and is one of the true legends of striking in MMA.
Also, with Machida just dropping a decision to Phil Davis, the door to the belt is wide open and looking for challengers. I believe that Shogun knows this and will not let this fight get away from him.