Before they became UFC stars, Anderson Silva and Mauricio Rua were both star fighters for the famed Chute Boxe Academy, based out of Curitiba, Brazil.
The prospect of a match between Silva and Rua at one time seemed nearly unthinkable, but now it seems almost like simply a matter of time.
The History Between Silva and Rua
Although Silva and Rua trained at Chute Boxe together, they actually did so for only a relatively short amount of time.
Silva is more than six years older than Rua,. By the time Rua was emerging as a Chute Boxe star, Silva was already on his way out.
In fact, Anderson Silva credits gym rival Minotauro Nogueira for helping to keep him from retiring after he left Chute Boxe.
In any case, the truth is that while Silva and Rua have a healthy amount of respect for each other, they were not consistent training partners, and aren't truly friends.
As much as Silva might not enjoy fighting fellow Brazilians as much as fighting people from other countries, Lyoto Machida is about the only fighter Silva says he will not fight.
For Rua's part, he says the only fighter he won't fight is his friend, Wanderlei Silva.
The real reason a fight between Rua and Anderson Silva never fought each other has little to do with affiliation, and much more to do with weight class.
Rua has been fighting at the 205 pound limit for years, while Silva used to fight as low as 168 pounds, and only recently has tested the waters at 205 pounds.
Recently, UFC president Dana White has been interviewed about Silva's future and has said that he thinks a permanent move to 205 pounds may be in Silva's near future.
Silva has pretty much cleared out all of the marketable matchups at 185 pounds, and ever since his seemingly effortless win over Forrest Griffin, people have gone so far as to say that Silva is truly the uncrowned champion of the 205 pound division.
With Rua now reigning over that division, a clash of titans seems imminent, especially if Rua can get by Rashad Evans later this year.
Analyzing The Striking Styles of Rua and Silva
In a recent interview with PVT Mag, former Chute Boxe trainer, José "Pelé" Landi-Jons said that any matchup between Silva and Rua would be fought entirely on the feet because otherwise a win would "earn no glory in the streets of Curitiba."
I doubt that there would actually be no takedown attempts, but it's worth talking about their respective striking styles.
The interesting thing about Rua and Silva is that their styles have both evolved dramatically since leaving Chute Boxe.
Silva was always a great fighter, but he really seems to have gotten even better over the past few years.
At one time, any fighter who could take him down would stand a good chance of submitting him. Now, Silva has earned his black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and has been able to fend off talented grapplers like Thales Leites with relative ease.
His takedown defense has also improved dramatically, as is evidenced by how easily he was able to nullify Demian Maia's takedowns. Some people say that Maia has no takedown ability, but that's not quite fair to say about a man who was able to perform a lateral drop on former wrestling Olympic alternate, Chael Sonnen.
More than just shoring up his weaknesses, Silva has really become a kind of artist when it comes to his greatest weapon, his striking.
Arguably the most famous muay thai practitioner in the world, Silva has developed an arsenal of nearly unparalleled depth.
Silva is an expert at controlling distance and eluding strikes, and retaliating with crippling force. His thai clinch became legendary after his wins over Rich Franklin.
One of the most entertaining pieces of Anderson Silva trivia is that he knocked out Tony Fryklund with an elbow strike he learned from watching the movie Ong Bak.
According to the story, he saw the movie and decided to start practicing the elbow strike despite repeated warnings from his trainers to abandon such a risky and marginally effective move.
Instead of abandoning the move, Silva decided to use it only once. Once was enough to knock out Fryklund and start the legend of Silva as a fighter who likes to win in artistic fashion.
Unlike Silva, who usually mesaures his opponents before disecting them, Rua has been known for a more aggressive style, where he charges in, confident that his power and his chin will win the day.
Still, Rua's ability to fight a tactical fight really started to come out in his fights against Chuck Liddell and Lyoto Machida.
Against Liddell, Rua was able to effectively time Liddell's jab and land with overhand rights of his own. Before Rua finished the fight with a left hook, Rua was already far ahead on points with the powerful right hands that he'd been landing over and over again.
Against Machida, Rua was first able to take advantage of Machida's failure to defend leg kicks, and his propensity to circle to the left. Both of these things allowed Rua to score heavily with leg kicks in the first fight.
In the second fight with Machida, Rua's camp anticipated Machida's aggressive countering strategy and trained to counter that with punches over the top.
All of this strategy against Machida was more effective because Rua was confident enough in his chin to be able to press forward relentlessly, without the fear of being knocked out.
How Do Thier Styles Match Up In A Fight?
If Landi-Jons is correct, then debating how well each fighter would do really depends upon how you view Anderson Silva's recent antics.
Silva is a far superior striker in terms of speed and technique, while both fighters present excellent power, and unquestionable chins.
Yet some people believe that Silva's antics against fighters such as Patrick Cote and Demian Maia were simply a matter of the champ getting tired and perhaps even a bit cautious after being clipped by a couple of punches.
I don't buy the idea that he was tired or hurt, and think that Silva's antics were by some sort of choice. Whether those performances were a result of boredom, spite, or as some have put it, "an obsession to win in outside-the-box ways," I'll leave others to decide.
Silva often performs his best when he's being pushed by his opponent. Therefore, I think that if he fought an aggressive fighter like Shogun, it might just bring out the best in Anderson Silva.
Although I favor Silva in a striking match, I do think that Shogun can cause problems for Silva on the feet.
Shogun's striking is at a very high level, and now that he's incorporating a lot of film study and tactics into his fights, perhaps it's possible that he can find some holes in Silva's game.
Perhaps the area where Shogun has the biggest advantage is on the ground, where I'd favor his grappling credentials over Silva's, assuming that Rua is the fighter in top position.
Rua has an aggressive top game, and unlike some guys who would get caught in Silva's guard and stood back up, Rua might have the guard passing/submission/ground-and-pound skills to actually put an end to Silva's night.
The reason I don't favor Rua outright is that Silva's own wrestling is often underrated. He was able to stuff Dan Henderson effectively in the second round of their fight, and pulled off a nifty switch on Nate Marquardt, which led to an eventual knockout.
At the present time, Silva should be able to keep the fight on the feet for the most part, where I think he'll have an advantage, but the fight is close enough that unlike some more predictable fights, we won't truly know until we see it.
Potential Stumbling Blocks for Silva vs. Rua
In order for Silva and Rua to fight each other, at the bare minimum, they both need to win their next fights. Silva should be heavily favored over Chael Sonnen, and Rua perhaps slightly favored over his next opponent, Rashad Evans.
Yet even if both fighters win, there may be some hesitation, mostly on the side of Silva.
The two people I see in the way of a potential fight are Georges St. Pierre and Lyoto Machida.
I see St. Pierre as a potential obstacle because he is perhaps the most marketable opponent for Silva, if Silva can make the drop in weight.
Silva's mind may not be made up, but if he chooses to pursue a bout with St. Pierre, it could stop or at least delay any potential bout between Silva and Rua. That said, I've been a great supporter of that potential Silva vs. St. Pierre bout. My take on that matchup here .
Lyoto Machida is a potential obstacle, but not because he's a potential opponent.
Machida is a friend of Silva's, and even though Machida lost decisively to Rua, Silva may decide to not pursue the title, at least until Machida gets a chance to regain it.
On the other hand, perhaps Rua's knockout win over Machida will only fuel Silva with thoughts of revenge, making a potential bout all the more interesting.
Ultimately, there are still issues of timing that need to be overcome, but even so, the matchup between Silva and Rua already easily joins St. Pierre vs. Silva in my top five list of the most anticipated future UFC bouts.