At the young age of 32, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is already a legend of the sport. He was a freak of nature during his time in Pride and is a former UFC light heavyweight champion. He recently landed a huge knockout victory over James Te Huna and is back on an upswing in his career after previously dropping two straight, including a fight against natural middleweight Chael Sonnen. Considering that the ship is starting to be righted for the Brazilian, he needs to take the next step to getting back on track. That step isn’t another fight at 205 pounds, though. It’s a move to middleweight.

It isn’t much of a secret that the Brazilian hasn’t exactly been the best light heavyweight during his time in the Octagon. Sure, he defeated Lyoto Machida for the promotion’s 205-pound title back in 2010, and you could argue that he beat “The Dragon” back in 2009 when the judges’ decision went for Machida. But other than the victory over his fellow Brazilian, he doesn’t have any marquee wins in the Octagon. He took down washed-up versions of Mark Coleman and Chuck Liddell and defeated a less-than-stellar Forrest Griffin and Brandon Vera. Although he nearly decapitated Te Huna earlier this month with a left hook, it was another victory against a non-top-10 opponent, which hasn’t really improved his standing at light heavyweight.

The best option for Shogun at this point in his career is to follow the path that many others have taken, and that is to drop weight classes and enter the middleweight division. Machida, the man Shogun defeated for the light heavyweight belt, did it recently after struggling at 205, and kicked off the new chapter in his career with a bang after knocking out Mark Munoz. T.J. Grant was an average, at best, welterweight and became the lightweight No. 1 contender after dropping to his new weight class.

Changing weight classes isn’t a path to guaranteed success, though. Cody McKenzie never really made it in the featherweight division, after dropping from lightweight. Clay Guida had a good run at 155 pounds, but it didn’t work out there, so he went to 145, where it hasn’t worked out so well either. Sonnen has gone 1-2 at light heavyweight, after a strong run at middleweight where he was the two-time middleweight title challenger.

The biggest thing that Rua has going for him in this regard is that he is a big name in the world of MMA. Older fans of the sport know his dominance from Pride and are always hoping to see the fire that once was. Because of that, Shogun is more than likely on a longer leash than others, considering his overall record inside the Octagon is only 6-6. Dropping the additional 20 pounds to get to middleweight is a sexy move for the promotion because it opens up a lot of potential for one of its well-established superstars.

Simply put, the 32-year-old can’t hang with the existing light heavyweights that matter. He was dominated by current champion Jon Jones. He was completely outmatched by Alexander Gustafsson, who arguably beat Jones.  Considering the rate at which No. 1 contender Glover Teixeira is going, Shogun probably wouldn’t fare well against him either. Would he be able to defeat the winner of this weekend’s main event between Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva? No, nor should he get a title shot that quickly if he goes to middleweight. However, he would have the opportunity to get a clean slate and work his way back, which is an exciting scenario to consider.

At the end of the day, the move to middleweight would benefit both the promotion and the fighter. Hopefully it comes sooner than later, because the collective MMA world would agree that it is something that they would like to see.

About The Author

Brian McKenna
Staff Writer

Brian McKenna was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. A sports nut from as long as he can remember, he came to be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts from a roommate watching The Ultimate Fighter while attending Westfield State College. Brian came to writing by starting his own blog, Four Down Territory, which focuses on Boston based sports, life, and of course MMA.