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Mauricio Rua: 5 Fights to Get Shogun Back on Track

Steven RondinaFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2012

Mauricio Rua: 5 Fights to Get Shogun Back on Track

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    Eesh.

    Another fight, another wheezy, pudgy, disappointing fight from Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.

    The former light heavyweight champion has looked just awful in 2012, and at this point there are serious questions about his future in MMA. In his two most recent fights, he has shown none of the cardio that used to be one of his greatest strengths, and the technically masterful striking he used to knock out Lyoto Machida has just seemed to evaporate.

    So what can Shogun do to get back to his winning ways? And who can he fight?

    Find out right here!

Thiago Silva

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    The heavy-handed Brazilian started off his career 13-0, but since then has struggled both in and out of the cage.

    His unbeaten streak was ended by Lyoto Machida, who stepped over his unconscious body to get a title fight. He beat Keith Jardine next, but that would be the last win to stay on his record, losing to Rashad Evans and Alexander Gustafsson, and twice having wins turned to no-contests after failing drug tests (once for submitting a fake urine sample, and the other for smoking weed).

    He is currently serving a six-month suspension, but with Shogun likely to take some time off to screw his head back on straight, these two could wind up against each other.

    While Thiago Silva has serious knockout power, he is by no means a legitimately great striker. His big right is just about his only real tool, and his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt is not really indicative of legitimate submission skills.

    Logically, if the two fight, Rua should be able to use his superior striking repertoire to out-land, and possibly knock out, Thiago Silva. Hey, even if he loses, it will probably end up a no-contest anyway.

Ovince St. Preux

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    Depending on what you think of Ovince St. Preux, you might not like this matchup.

    Some think of “OSP” as a great light heavyweight prospect. Others think of him as a standard Strikeforce can-opener. I, more or less, fall into the latter category (though I think he has legitimate skills). Regardless, few would disagree that, at this point, he is not in Rua's league.

    He is 6-1 in Strikeforce, with his biggest win coming over...uh...TJ Cook. He has not really fought anybody especially good, and even among that lot, he only has two real stoppages (a third came by a fighter tapping to punches).

    Still, he has a record that looks more than deserving of a fight with Shogun, and with OSP not scheduled to fight on the upcoming Marquardt vs. Saffiedine card, he might be free to join the UFC sooner than later.

    Again, I don't want to utterly dismiss St. Preux's accomplishments. He really is a solid fighter with both striking and wrestling skills. It's just that he has a somewhat inflated record, and this is an article about getting Shogun back on track.

    He just happens to be a great way to do it.

Vladimir Matyushenko

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    At 41 years old, Vladimir Matyushenko's remaining days in MMA are very numbered. That isn't to hate, as he has gone 4-2 in his second stint with the UFC and has beaten some solid dudes in Igor Pokrajac and Jason Brilz.

    It's just that with his next fight coming against top-10 light heavyweight Ryan Bader, he kind of already has a position as the division's go-to-guy for high-level fighters needing to bounce back after an ugly loss. Shogun, obviously, is a high-level fighter coming off an ugly loss.

    This fight actually might prove a bit of a challenge for Rua. Matyushenko is a standard grinding wrestler who is capable of taking down almost anybody and applying modest (but not inordinate) amounts of ground and pound. While his two most recent wins are first-round knockouts, he is not actually heavy-handed, and Rua would own a huge advantage standing.

    Rua would still be favored, as he has solid takedown defense and Jiu-Jitsu. This would allow him to consistently work the fight standing, and “The Janitor” has very little chance there.

Rich Franklin

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    Still reeling from his knockout loss to Cung Le, Rich Franklin's future is unknown, as is what weight class he might be returning to, should he choose to keep fighting. If he opts to come back, and if the UFC pushes him back up to light heavyweight, a bout with Rua would be a compelling fight between two of the most experienced fighters in the promotion.

    Rich Franklin has been around the block several times. He is the former middleweight champion and has fought the likes of Chuck Liddell, Dan Henderson, Anderson Silva, Wanderlei Silva, Yushin Okami and on and on.

    Franklin is clearly near the end of his MMA career, with any realistic title aspirations fading after his most recent loss. Shogun, obviously, is at a crossroads and desperately needs a win if he wants to stay relevant as a light heavyweight.

    Putting the two of them against each other would make for a fun fight that will yield either a great finale for Franklin or a righted ship for Rua. Both of those are things that fans would like to see.

Brian Stann

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    But wait a minute! Brian Stann is a middleweight!

    Yes, that's right. Shogun Rua, though, is by no means a big light heavyweight. Frame-wise and height-wise, he has never been an especially imposing figure in the light heavyweight division. As fans have seen over the years, Rua never seems especially exhausted (or especially chiseled) at the weigh-ins.

    I'm no doctor and no nutritionist, but Rua definitely seems like he's a guy that might be able to slim down enough to make 185 lbs. As fighters like Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson have shown, size is an important factor in today's light heavyweight division.

    With other prominent middleweights like Demian Maia, Nate Marquardt and Chael Sonnen leaving the division, and Anderson Silva possibly taking time off and/or sitting and waiting for the much sought-after superfights, he may find himself closer to UFC gold as a middleweight at this point.

    It certainly doesn't hurt that the division is actually somewhat lacking in the way of well-rounded fighters right now, with most of its top fighters getting by purely on either wrestling or kickboxing.

    Brian Stann would be a great opponent for Shogun to start his middleweight career against. He is a very good, very beatable fighter with plenty of name value and a style that would likely make for a downright brawl if the two fought.

    Folks like Jake Shields or Cung Le, or even some of the various Strikeforce imports we'll be seeing in the coming months, all make sense as potential opponents for Rua. If he does drop down, there are many exciting fights that could be made.

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