After an upset defeat at the hands of Jon "Bones" Jones in March, can Mauricio "Shogun" Rua right the ship and climb back up the UFC light heavyweight ladder to once again challenge for a title?
Roughly 15 months ago, Rua defeated Lyoto Machida at UFC 113 in dominant fashion as he knocked out "The Dragon" at the 3:35 mark of Round 1 to capture the belt.
At that point in 2010, Rua was considered one of the top pound-for-pound mixed martial artists on the planet.
Known for his tremendous stand-up skills including devastating leg strikes, pin-point punches and a ruthless clinch game with punishing knees, Shogun was at the top of his game.
With 16 knockout victories to his credit, Rua is an extremely aggressive striker who is reliant on a strong base and a solid foundation to execute his arsenal of offensive weapons.
Unfortunately for the Brazilian superstar, repetitive knee injuries and subsequent surgeries have sidelined the fighter and have potentially diminished Rua's abilities inside the Octagon.
In an article released by sbnation.com, Shogun's first knee injury came before his battle with Forrest Griffin at UFC 76. Competing with a ruptured ACL, Rua suffered a submission loss to Griffin on that night, marking just the beginning of Shogun's knee troubles.
Shogun's second knee surgery followed his defeat of Machida at UFC 113 in May of 2010 forcing the champion into a 10-month layoff.
This surgery sidelined the scheduled bout with Rashad Evans, which was ultimately placed on hold.
Denouncing the rumor as mere speculation, Rua's manager Eduardo Alonso told Tatame.com that "His [Shogun's] knee is absolutely perfect, there's no injury."
Whether Rua has suffered another knee injury may be a moot point. Two knee injuries in a sport as dynamic as mixed martial arts is debilitating. Especially when one of those injuries is a rupture of the ACL.
All surgeries leave scar tissue within the injured capsule. This scar tissue is never as strong as the original muscle or ligament. This anatomical weakness leads to increased swelling and pain, as well as a decrease in performance.
Rua is known for his explosiveness and knockout power. Knee injuries sap a fighter's ability to deliver punches and kicks with the same force and velocity.
Additionally, conditioning and weight cuts become a factor. Fighters need to run to stay in shape and maintain their weight. If a competitor cannot maintain the same volume of training, then conditioning is sacrificed and fatigue sets in while competing inside the Octagon.
Griffin is known for his exceptional cardiovascular conditioning level. If this rumor of a third knee injury by Shogun is true, Rua's fate may be the same as his earlier defeat to Griffin at UFC 76.
Can Shogun Rua reclaim his championship form after suffering potentially three separate knee injuries?
That answer is no. Jon Jones is too dynamic of a champion to challenge for the title on essentially one leg. "Bones's" athleticism and striking prowess will once again decimate Rua, rendering the one-time top light heavyweight fighter on the planet a shell of his former self.
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