Mauricio Rua. Shogun. The man is a legend in the MMA world, one of the last of a dying breed. Known for wars in Pride, then coming over to the UFC after their acquisition of the Japanese promotion and successfully capturing the light heavyweight belt in the second of two fantastic fights against Lyoto Machida (never mind the scoring in the first fight, it was still great), in essence ending the Machida era that never fully got underway.

Suddenly, Shogun was on top of the world, exactly where we thought he should be.

Then along came Jon Jones, and Shogun became an afterthought. A guy with knee issues, nagging injuries, and a back-and-forth record. If there was any defining moment or event for Shogun Rua over the last few years of his career, it was a pair of bouts against another legend, Dan Henderson. Unfortunately, he came up short in both, losing a decision in their first bout at UFC 139 back in 2011, in what many consider to be the greatest MMA fight of all time, then being knocked out by the H-bomb at UFC Fight Night 38 this past March, a stunning reversal in a fight that he was winning. It dropped him to 1-3 in his last four, and again there came the usual questions: was he past his prime? Too old? Too broken down?

It’s easy to forget, with all he has accomplished and been through, that Mauricio Rua is just thirty-two years old. In most cases, that would still be considered an athlete’s prime, but the wars have taken their toll.

Still, Shogun insists he has gas left in the tank. He has a tough match-up at UFC Fight Night 56 against Ovince St. Preux – so what must he do to win?

Keep It Standing

Yes, OSP has a reach advantage, but he’s a bigger threat on the ground, and has the superior takedown ability. We know Shogun has a sturdy chin, and despite the wars, few men have been able to put him down. Hendo’s punch was arguably a lucky one, and St. Preux doesn’t have the one-punch firepower that Hendo holds. What he does have is a wide arsenal of submissions (he’s had a win via Von Flue choke this year, and wrecked Ryan Jimmo’s arm; in the past he managed to pull off a calf slicer) and skilled wrestling that Rua would be wise to avoid. Rua is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu himself and knows how to defend, but he did find himself caught and submitted by Chael Sonnen not that long ago.

Look for the Clinch, Make It Ugly

To negate the reach advantage, Shogun needs to go back to his Muay Thai roots, look for the clinch, and make this ugly. At close range, he is the more dangerous fighter and has the chin to withstand just about anything Ovince St. Preux can throw at him. Shogun needs a win more than he needs a highlight reel finish — this needn’t be pretty, just effective.

Rise to the Occasion, Take Advantage of Big Fight Experience

Ovince St. Preux hasn’t really fought anyone of Shogun’s pedigree just yet. Ryan Bader was his first step up, this past August, and it was just a little too much (he lost by unanimous decision). Now he’s coming in as a short-notice replacement against a more accomplished fighter. It’s a big opportunity for a fighter coming off a momentum-killing loss, and a shot at redemption. As St. Preux has said, you can become a legend by beating one, and that’s what he’s looking to do here.

To ensure it doesn’t happen, Shogun needs to rely on years of big fight experience, and rise to the occasion. We saw in the first Hendo fight that he “woke up” in the second half and started to come on strong. He needs to come on strong here as well – but he cannot wait until the second half of the fight to do it. Shogun needs to go to work right from the opening bell, negate OSP’s takedowns, keep things standing, and keep it ugly.

If he can do that, he can go home with a win — but this is a fight that could just as easily go the other way.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.