Apparently, the current UFC light-heavyweight champion, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, is far from thrilled about being a 2-1 underdog going into his first title defense against challenger, Jon Jones. UFC head honcho, Dana White, spoke candidly to Georges St-Pierre and Chuck Liddell, in his recently uploaded video blog, about Rua’s opinions on the matter.
Like most industry insiders, the Vegas spread was an unexpected surprise to Rua, who told Dana he felt slighted and disrespected, being an underdog champion to a 23-year-old contending alternate.
Shogun’s fight experience was gained from becoming the PRIDE 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix winner at the same age as Jones. With consecutive wins over Rampage Jackson, Lil Nog Nogueira, Alistair Overeem (back when horse meat was illegal?) and Ricardo Arona, the Chute Boxe product has every right to be soured—not only by the odds, but by the whole experience leading up to tomorrow.
The Jon Jones hype pandemic has been on overload since his dismantling of fellow prospect Ryan Bader, at UFC 126. Within six weeks, there’s been lofty Muhammad Ali comparisons, and legions of reckless fans predicting that Jones will manhandle Shogun in the first round. There is also a special video blog customized to allow people to peer into Jones’ inner circle as he prepared and trained (as if the Countdown wasn’t credence enough).
Who will wake up the UFC light-heavyweight champion on Sunday?
Where did this disregard or lack of confidence in Shogun come from?
Everybody likes the next big thing or the hot new flavor of the month. Jones is one of those infectious fighters who possesses an enthusiastic and creative dominance in the octagon—along with an equally respectable personality. The young fighter deserves a certain level of attention based on performance and potential alone.
But, to have a pristine veteran like Shogun—an elite fighter in his prime—get overshadowed like this, is ridiculous.
With that said, there is a primitive force of discontentment that drives most humans instinctively in a direction of endless exploration of limitless desires. There’s something that pulsates deep within our psyche that prevents us from being completely settled on what is in front of us at the moment.
That line between wants and needs is easily blurred in our minds. We want more; bigger, better, shinier, fresher, newer. We're ready to dismiss the current infatuation at the earliest sign of a favorable shift. It takes a particular sense of discipline and appreciation to remain content with what you have, to be a diehard team fan, to have fighter loyalty, and to be in a long term marriage (the latter seemingly being the hardest of them all).
Unfortunately, this intrinsic flaw has been exaggerated in Jones’ favor. MMA fans tend to exasperate these types of situations in general, jumping from one fighter to the next. The more casual fans flock to the nearest bandwagon after a fighter tastes the first sign of defeat.
As soon as an emotional Jones cried on his knees, “Let’s do this!” after Joe Rogan broke the news, the wheels were in motion.
In addition to the indifference Shogun is receiving from the MMA world, he never really found his footing in the hearts of fans since transferring over to the UFC from Pride.
He had an undeniably rough beginning in the octagon, losing to Forrest Griffin and barely sneaking past Mark Coleman. Coleman, in his stage in the game, should have been a breeze for the more competitive and younger Shogun.
Let it be a reminder, though—most of Shogun’s mishaps in the octagon have been a result of injury. He was either fighting injured or coming back from a long layoff after major surgery. Shogun fought Machida twice with ruptured ligaments in his knees.
Now here we are again, Shogun returning from a ten month absence due to yet another surgery. He finds himself against the odds in the books and in the fans’ eyes—this time as a champion on the biggest stage in the promotion’s flagship division.
Shogun Rua is officially the most overlooked champion the UFC has produced in a very long time.
What’s bewildering about this predicament is how the unjust conditional favoritism has poisoned the pre-fight analysis—though largely speculative to begin with—from all corners of the web.
Luckily, one pundit has retained his cool throughout the frenzied love affair, ready to offer up a painless vaccination for the masses, just in the nick of time. Don’t worry—my serum is an easily digestible bundle of bullet points meant to get your mind straight.
Here are the reasons why Jon Jones will fail to dethrone Shogun at UFC 128:
-Shogun has years of battle experience fighting elite opponents, possibly the most seasoned veteran under the age of 30. There’s a big question about whether Jones will be able to focus through all the distractions and execute his game plan—once he steps in the octagon to fight for a championship for the first time against a seasoned competitor like Rua.
-Skinny or not, Jones’ stilts are too unprepared in the discipline of Muay Thai to continually absorb over 2500lbs of force. His long limbs are also easier targets for armbars and leglocks.
-Jones’ reach advantage will be less effective when Shogun uses his kicking prowess to stay out of range, and his boxing to get inside of the reach.
-Jones’ resilience and cardio has not been tested past three rounds at this level in the octagon; a lot rests on Greg Jackson's timing. If Jones doesn’t peak on time, Shogun will only be harder to defeat in the later rounds.
-Despite being a black belt, Shogun has underrated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He might find himself on his back but, against a white belt who primarily uses headlock positions, Shogun should find ample opportunities to submit the lesser experienced wrestler.
-Shogun can take the risks of being an aggressor in this fight, which he’ll need to do in order to disrupt Jones’ fluidity and confidence early in the first round. He also has a tough chin in case he gets careless moving forward.
-Jones’ footwork and knockout power is questionable.
-The Jackson camp isn’t the only camp in town that can formulate great strategic game plans. It was Shogun’s coaches who cracked the Machida code—essentially twice—after everybody thought it was nearly impossible.
-Jones’ overall striking, as creative as it can be, has too many cracks for Shogun to exploit with his far more superior arsenal.
-After I made a bet with Robert Gardner (fellow Bleacher Report colleague and co-host of Sprawl-N-Brawl Radio) on our podcast this week, it would be a shame to miss Big Rob cutting a dance floor in Shogun Bad Boy fight shorts while singing Kelis’ Milkshake, with a whopper in each hand. Shameless.
Let the fun begin!