Mauricio Rua entered UFC 97 as the only fighter truly seeking redemption. Hailed as the Shogun of the Lightheavyweights of the MMA world, his fall from grace was very sudden.
Defeat at the hands of Forrest Griffin, combined with mutli knee surgeries threw his career into serious question. Poor cardio and a shaky victory over Mark Colemen just added fuel to the fire. Rua had fallen from the elevation from Shogun.
On Saturday night, he took his first step back in the direction of Shogun-ship. Rua looked great against Chuck Liddell, he was explosive, active and attacked from every angle. His kicks were crisp, his footwook fluid and every strike packed power that had been missing in his previous UFC fights.
While it seems that Liddell gets KOed every other week these days, Rua has joined a group of only two other fighters that have ever accomplished the feat, both of who became UFC LHW champions, Rampage Jackson and Rashad Evans.
Rua is still a long ways off from getting a fight with the winner of Evans-Machida, he has certainly become relevant again in the stacked LHW division. His dynamic striking makes him a draw, as does his reputation among former Pride fans.
Fellow Brazilian Luis Cane could a possible next match up for Rua, then followed by an elite contender if he wins. Rua still needs to answer questions about his cardio and mental toughness and a war with Cane would help answer those questions. The contender match would help re-establish Rua as the destructor of elite level fighters.
A run like that could certainly earn Rua back his title of Shogun.