Like it or not, there's no denying that Mauricio "Shogun" Rua is on the last legs of his illustrious career.
With only three Octagon victories since 2011, the Brazilian has found his way on the chopping block. That's not to say he'll get cut with a loss to Dan Henderson this Sunday at UFC Fight Night 38 in Natal, Brazil, but a victory may be more vital than ever before.
Remember, this is a guy not far removed from multiple UFC light heavyweight title fights. So by his track record alone, it would be a shame for Rua to go out on anything short of fireworks.
A victory over Henderson this weekend, and quite possibly a finish, would certainly dispel many beliefs that the 32-year-old simply possesses to much wear and tear to regain world-class dominance.
In order to do that, Rua needs to stick to a strict game plan in order to survive the furious power and experience of "Hendo," something he was unable to do two-and-a-half years ago.
Here are three keys to victory for the 205-pound vet against his 43-year-old adversary:
While Henderson is coming off a knockout defeat at the hands of Vitor Belfort and Rua is riding his own one-punch finish over James Te Huna this past December, it would be silly to rush "Hendo" in an attempt to overwhelm him.
Because regardless of his past few fights, Henderson is still arguably the most dangerous power puncher in all the land. One who possesses a dynamic "H-Bomb" capable of skinning a deer.
So it's vastly important for Rua to sustain patience and pick his shots. If he decides to wildly exchange like his first encounter with the toothless legend of combat, the lasting results will more than likely prove similar.
However, if Rua is able to stay on his toes, chooses precision over power, waits to counter and keeps out of trouble, his probability of winning increases tenfold.
Implement Early Kicks
As one of the most vicious one-punch strikers of all time, it's key to slow Henderson down early.
Will Rua finish Henderson?
By doing so, the old man's abilities on the feet become somewhat subdued. His legs will start to fail him, his body will start to hurt and his power will start to diminish.
This is exactly what Rua needs to do in order to secure his dominance for the later rounds. Because the more leg kicks he lands in the first two rounds gives him a better chance of wearing Henderson down and avoiding his hands later in the fight.
Now, that's often easier said than done considering Henderson will hit you from any possible leaping angle, so Rua is going to have to stay covered and circle out. Once he's able to establish range, his leg kicks should become the most utilized offensive weapon in this long-awaited rematch.
Secure the Takedown
If Rua starts to lose his footing in the striking department, he could always opt for the ground game.
I realize that's a crazy notion because Henderson's wrestling is off the charts, but it's not like "Shogun" can't drag him to the canvas at least once throughout five rounds. He did it five times in their first meeting, which is the most times Henderson has ever been taken down in a single fight.
With that said, it would be crazy to assume Rua is going to have the same sort of success this time around. Henderson is going to be in tiptop shape and aiming to prove a point, so the Brazilian is going to have to work extra hard to drag the veteran to deep waters.
If he can somehow put him on his back, Rua's athleticism and well-rounded ground-and-pound should reign supreme.
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