When PRIDE was purchased by Zuffa, LLC, in 2007 the biggest asset acquired by the UFC was Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
“Shogun” is the Japanese word for general. At that point in time he was only 25-years-old and was the general at 205 pounds. He was already a proven champion by the age of 23 when he won the PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix.
He sported a 16–2 record with thirteen wins by knockout. He was widely considered by most MMA publications to be the No. 1 fighter in the world at 205 pounds. That was even during the height of Chuck Liddell’s fame and success in the UFC.
Shogun was a PRIDE fan favorite with his aggressive and flashy striking with wins over the likes of Quinton Jackson, Alistair Overeem, Ricardo Arona, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Cyrille Diabate, and Kevin Randleman.
Although great fighters like Wanderlei Silva, Mirko Cro Cop, Quinton Jackson, and Dan Henderson were headed to the UFC along with Shogun, it was Shogun who had already been anointed as the “next great thing”.
Shogun was on path to become a dominant champion and go down as one of the greats some day. However, his success and good karma would quickly change.
In the two years since the PRIDE acquisition, Shogun has endured a tough transition to the UFC, including two major knee surgeries along with a ton of pressure from MMA fans and media around the world.
Shogun would have to wait seven months for his first UFC fight against Forrest Griffin at UFC 76 in September of 2007.
The layoff, the bum knee (which required surgery after the fight), the adjustment to octagon fighting, his tentativeness, and his lack of cardio all combined to ensure his downfall that night.
Shogun gave up his back late in the third round. Griffin was able to get both hooks in, flatten him out, and submit him via rear naked choke with only fifteen seconds left in the third round.
That fight was supposed to be Shogun’s coming out party, his “Welcome To The UFC” moment. It turned out to be one of the biggest upsets ever in the UFC.
After the knee surgery he went through rehabilitation and rededicated himself for his next fight with Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell, which was slated for UFC 85 in June of 2008.
Shogun would soon hit another wall training for this fight when he blew out his knee for the second time and the fight was subsequently called off. It was two ruptured ACL’s in less than a year on the same knee.
Currently, Shogun has resumed his training after another lengthy rehabilitation. His next fight has not been determined, however, it has been rumored to once again be Liddell.
Regardless, Shogun is mentally strong going through this tough stretch in his career and he is motivated to prove to the fans and media that he is indeed the best in the world at 205 pounds.
A win over Liddell would be a new beginning for Shogun, a career rebirth. It would be self-fulfilling for Shogun, a sort of redemption, and it would put him right back into the mix at 205 pounds in the UFC.
The good news is that he is only 26-years-old and quite possibly has more raw talent than anyone on the planet, in my opinion, second only to BJ “The Prodigy” Penn.
The bad news is that the next time he fights it will be over a year since his last fight. He doesn’t know how the knee will react or if he will ever be fully healthy again. He also has not proven he can handle the adjustment to the octagon. Just ask Mirko Cro Cop how difficult the transition is for a fighter.
Will his knee hold up? Will he be able to overcome the layoff? Will he finally adjust to the dimensions of the octagon?
There are more questions than answers at this point, but I'm anxious to find out how he fits into the UFC's 205 pound puzzle.
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