Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. The name immediately brings visions of an exciting brand of Muay Thai-filled violence. It’s also a name that’s very highly regarded by much of the MMA community. But as Rua enters the twilight of his career, is he truly one of the greatest light heavyweights of all time?

The answer, of course, isn’t black and white, but shades of grey all over. The idea of Rua as one of the sport’s greatest light heavyweights is like beauty: it’s in the eye of the beholder. But let’s start by examining the facts through the numbers.

Rua sports a 22-8 overall record after his thunderous knockout of James Te Huna at UFC Fight Night 33. Among those wins are an UFC light heavyweight championship and the title of Pride Middleweight Grand Prix winner from 2005. The names of fighters Shogun has defeated are a who’s who of MMA at 205 pounds. But although Rua has a great resume, it begins to sour once you look at his run in the UFC. Following the Te Huna win, Shogun now sports a meager 6-6 record in the world’s top MMA promotion. And once you look at the wins on Rua’s resume, it’s hard to call his UFC run a success outside of his two bouts with Lyoto Machida.

Rua entered the UFC with quite a bit of fanfare and was widely considered one of the great acquisitions by the UFC when it purchased Pride. However, Rua’s UFC debut would be nothing short of a disaster for the former Pride star. Forrest Griffin had been put against Shogun to be nothing more than a lamb for the slaughter. Griffin flipped the script, however, and wound up forcing Rua to tap in the final frame. It was after the Griffin bout that Shogun endured the first of many knee injuries and subsequent surgeries.

Shogun returned at UFC 93 to face a familiar foe in Mark Coleman. The two engaged in a bout that saw both men look exhausted. Although it won “Fight of the Night,” it was neither man’s best performance. Rua followed that win with another against Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell at UFC 97. Like Liddell’s match-up with Wanderlei Silva, this fight was well past its time. With wins over two aging fighters that should’ve hung up their gloves, Rua was awarded an UFC title shot.

His two fights with Machida became the high point of Rua’s UFC run. Rua changed his style drastically, becoming a strategic fighter against the elusive Machida and was widely regarded as the winner of their first match-up at UFC 104. Although he ended up losing on the judges’ scorecards in their first meeting, Rua left no doubt at UFC 113 when he dropped Machida in the very first round.

The Brazilian lost the title to Jon Jones in his first defense after snatching it from Machida. He then began a drastic slide down the rankings. Since the Jones fight, Rua has gone 3-3. If you show Rua’s record without showing his name and ask fans who they think the fighter is, many would probably wind up saying the name of a gatekeeper in the division. Yes, Rua has the drawing power and a big name, but nobody is pegging Shogun to make a title run anytime soon.

Looking back at his career, it will always be a question of , “what if?” The Shogun of Pride would’ve ran rampant through the light heavyweight division. A blend of beautiful Muay Thai attacks with devastating results, Rua was among the most popular fighters in the world for a reason. But after the knee injuries, he has been reduced to a shell of his former self. He’ll always have the punching power, evident from his one-punch knockout of Te Huna, but gone are the days of flashy combinations that left fans in awe of the Brazilian. He holds a Pride Grand Prix tournament win and an UFC title, so you can’t call Rua’s career a total disappointment. But similar to B.J. Penn and his lack of enthusiasm for training, Rua has to leave many to wonder what more could’ve been achieved by a fighter of his talent. Rua will be rembered as an all-time great, which depending on your view of the fighter is either valid or the result of being propped up for his accomplishments outside the Octagon. Fans can really make credible arguments either way.

But given how exciting of a fighter Rua has been and the fans holding Pride memories near and dear to their heart, expect to see Rua holding an UFC plaque etched with the words “Hall of Fame” once he hangs up the gloves.

Photo: Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.

  • Joe Smitty

    Mauriciooo Shogunnnn Ruaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!