The UFC didn't allow the fact that UFC Fight Night 26 will be free on television to keep it from putting together a great main event. Light heavyweights Chael Sonnen and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua star in a matchup that no fight fan will want to miss.
In Sonnen, you have a brash, controversial middleweight/light heavyweight contender who loves to push the pace with his relentless wrestling. He's looking to get back into the win column after losing to Anderson Silva and Jon Jones in back-to-back fights.
In Shogun, you have a former PRIDE legend and fearsome striker who just can't seem to catch a break. His brief run with the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship has been overshadowed by his inability to win back-to-back fights since 2009, when he beat Mark Coleman and Chuck Liddell after losing to Forrest Griffin in 2007.
With both fighters desperately needing a win in this interesting clash of styles, this bout has all the makings of a classic. Here's everything you need to know before you catch the fight. Note: Statistics used in this article via FightMetric unless otherwise noted.
When: Saturday, Aug. 17 (Main card starts at 8 p.m. ET)
Where: TD Garden, Boston
Watch: Fox Sports 1 (Channel No. for your area can be found here)
Odds (via Bovada): Rua -155, Sonnen +125
Shogun Wins If...
He is able to defend Sonnen's takedowns and find his opponent's chin.
At his best, Shogun is one of the most impressive knockout artists in MMA history. A fully healthy and prime Shogun has better explosiveness and power than just about anyone in the sport. It's no coincidence that 18 of his 21 career victories have come by way of knockout.
His striking should be even stronger coming into this fight as he spent some time training with famed boxing coach, Freddie Roach.
Finishing Sonnen with strikes won't be easy, though. Few fighters close distance as well as Sonnen does, and he only absorbs 1.05 strikes per minutes.
Sonnen Wins If...
He puts Shogun on his back early and often.
With 3.83 takedowns per 15 minutes in the Octagon, Sonnen is aggressive in his wrestling. He only lands 60 percent of his attempts, but he makes up for it with sheer volume. His striking has improved over the years, but it's still relatively rudimentary.
Conversely, his opponent isn't the best at stopping takedowns. Rua's takedown defense accuracy sits at just 44 percent, and he was taken down six times in his three-round bout against Alexander Gustafsson.
If Sonnen can wear Shogun down in the opening rounds, the fight will swing into his favor. He's 16-1 in fights that have gone the distance, while Rua is just 2-3.
Prediction: Sonnen via Unanimous Decision
As always, the real question that will determine this fight is what version of Rua shows up. If it's the Shogun who demolished Chuck Liddell and knocked out Lyoto Machida for the light heavyweight title, then he wins the fight.
But it's been more than three years since we saw that version of Shogun. His wins since then have come against Brandon Vera and Forrest Griffin. Those guys weren't at the level that Sonnen is right now.
Expect Shogun to threaten early, but if he doesn't get the finish, Sonnen will take control as the fight wears on.