Mauricio "Shogun" Rua is already one of the most feared strikers in MMA history.
With 18 knockouts to his name, Shogun has viciously beaten down some of the biggest names in fighting. Whether it was his savage soccer-kick fueled destruction of Rampage Jackson or his two finishes of pre-horse meat Alistair Overeem, Shogun has displayed that he can KO the best in the world.
However, after losing three of his past five fights, Shogun has been looking to refine his striking game ahead of his showdown with three-time title contender and resident lighting rod Chael Sonnen.
While Shogun has always displayed some of the best Muay Thai in MMA, the Brazilian light-heavyweight took the time to train with legendary boxing trainer Freddie Roach to improve his punching game.
Roach has worked with MMA greats like Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva, but the iconic boxing trainer was excited to train with the dangerous striker Rua.
"Of course I was really excited about having him come because working with guys like this is really an honor for me," Roach said to The MMA Hour.
However, Roach went on to say that the Rua he inherited was nowhere near the level that he needed to be, as his punches were a bit "girly" for Roach's taste.
"It's funny, when we first started working together [Rua] wasn't punching really hard because he didn't have his balance and his feet under him, and I told him he punched like a girl," said Roach, who has also trained the likes of Bernard Hopkins, Manny Pacquiao, Oscar De La Hoya and Mike Tyson. The last day he said, ‘Freddie, can I ask you a question? Do I punch like a boy now?' I said, ‘Yes, you do.' He's really fun guy to be around and a really hard worker. We had a really good time."
Specifically, Roach said the biggest lesson that Shogun took away was using his body more in his punching, as Rua was only using his upper body when throwing punches.
"He didn't have his feet under him. He wasn't pivoting off the right foot at the right time," Roach explained in the interview. "The thing about striking is having weight on the right foot at the right time, and driving off that foot. He was more or less just using his upper body, which is okay. But if you get your whole body behind your shot, it's just much, much better."
"He went from an okay puncher to a great puncher in less than a week. He picks up on things very quickly because of the athlete he is. It was like night and day, when he started to when he left. He really, really had a lot more power under his shots. But the thing is, he has to sit down with his shots a little bit more. Sometimes it's a little bit harder with MMA because of the aspect of being kicked at the same time, but it did work for him. When we worked off angles it worked really, really well. I was really happy with the progress."
Roach wasn't the only person seeing improvement in the Brazilian's striking game, as Rua himself came out and stated this his new punching prowess is of superhero-like proportions.
"He really saw an improvement in my punches because of the coaching he gave me," said Rua in a UFC-produced video. "So now, I punch like Superman!"
With that being said, Shogun will need to take advantage of that Krypton based punching power when it comes to his upcoming fight with Sonnen. Sonnen is one of the most dangerous wrestlers in the world, and it's hard to imagine Shogun will have an excess of time on his feet. If Shogun is to win this fight, he is going to have to avoid the takedown, while making the most of his opportunities standing.
If Shogun can keep the fight standing, it's hard to imagine Sonnen getting the best of him on the feet. However, Sonnen is going to inevitably get a takedown, which means Shogun better be ready to both strike and grapple on the floor. Despite Roach's standup background, his training can also be applied to striking on the mat, as good punching technique is universal.
"The thing is, sometimes when you're getting a guy on the ground, and the ground and pounding, they're just kind of arm punches," said Roach, "just not really getting their body behind it where they could end it with one shot instead of 50. So it does get a little frustrating at that point, but the thing is, again, it's not their main sport at first for most of the guys."
While Roach is primarily a boxing trainer, he definitely embraces the opportunity to work with MMA's best, and he looks forward to working with more fighters that are looking to improve their boxing game.
"I do have a couple guys I'd like to help," Roach said. "It's just a learning process, and I'm very open to helping these guys out. It works out well for me because I love working with great athletes."
Do you think training with Roach will make a difference for Shogun in his matchup with Chael Sonnen? Have your say with a comment or tweet @R_Tolmich with your fight predictions!