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Shogun's Dozen - The Best of Mauricio Rua

Shogun vs. Sonnen - August 17 on FOX Sports 1
Shogun Rua vs. Dan HendersonOne of mixed martial arts’ longest reigning superstars, former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua has been thrilling fans around the world for years. Here’s a look at some of the Brazilian bomber’s most memorable moments.

Akira Shoji – October 5, 2003 – PRIDE Bushido 1
Result – Rua KO1

4-1 in his mixed martial arts career, 21-year old Mauricio Rua made his PRIDE debut against the man many of the Japanese organization’s big names made their bones against – veteran gatekeeper Akira Shoji. And despite the fact that Shoji had been on the losing end of his PRIDE bouts more often than not, he was never one to go away quietly, and he actually came into the Rua bout with a two-fight winning streak, his first in three years. And while obviously raw technique wise, there was no disputing the athleticism and potential of the youngster from Curitiba, who rebounded from a slow start that saw him taken down and almost caught in a heel hook to stop Shoji with a series of flush shots to the head at the 3:47 mark. The win began a streak that lasted nearly two and a half years and built Rua from unknown to superstar.

Quinton Jackson – April 23, 2005 – PRIDE Total Elimination 2005
Result – Rua TKO1

4-1 as a pro, Rua made his debut in PRIDE on October 5, 2003 in the organization’s first Bushido show. Following the win that night over veteran gatekeeper Akira Shoji, Rua stopped Akihiro Gono and Yasuhito Namekawa in two more Bushido bouts before moving to the big show with a February 2005 win over Hiromitsu Kanehara at PRIDE 29. Next up for ‘Shogun’ was established star Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, who had just rebounded from his second loss to Wanderlei Silva by winning a split decision over Rua’s brother Murilo. With this added incentive, Rua stepped into the Osaka Dome ring not only looking to establish himself as one of the game’s top young stars, but to avenge his brother. As he told me in 2007, “He (Jackson) was the star in PRIDE, and I was the new guy from Brazil. I knew that the fight would be difficult, he beat Ninja (Rua’s brother Murilo) before in a very controversial result, and this was my opportunity to avenge my brother. At the end, the fight was easier than everyone could imagine.” I don’t know about easy, but it was certainly impressive, and perhaps Rua’s most spectacular victory, as he tore through Jackson en route to a first round TKO that put him on the international map. “Shogun” was for real.

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira – June 26, 2005 – PRIDE Critical Countdown 2005
Result – Rua W3

Just two months after his career defining win over Jackson, Rua was called back into action to face countryman Antonio Rogerio “Minotouro” Nogueira in the quarterfinals of the PRIDE middleweight Grand Prix. Combined, the two owned a 12-0 PRIDE record, and they fought hard to keep that zero, with the resulting bout gaining much fan support as one of the best in the organization’s history. And that’s no surprise considering the back and forth nature of the fight as well as the high-level striking and groundwork from both men. When it was over, Rua had pounded out a unanimous decision win, but there were some who believed Lil’ Nog deserved the nod.

Ricardo Arona – August 28, 2005 – PRIDE Final Conflict 2005
Result – Rua KO1

With two huge wins under his belt in the 2005 Grand Prix tournament, Rua made it three in a row with a semifinal stoppage of Alistair Overeem, setting up his final match against Ricardo Arona in August of 2005. It was both fighters’ fourth match in four months against world-class competition (Arona defeated Dean Lister, Kazushi Sakuraba, and Wanderlei Silva to make it to the final), and the question of burnout had to be considered. But once the bell rang, it was clear that Rua was only getting warmed up, and he broke open the fight and ended it suddenly at the 2:54 mark with a stomp and a series of follow-up hammerfists that put Arona out and gave ‘Shogun’ the 2005 PRIDE middleweight Grand Prix title. Pound for pound? He was certainly in the conversation.

Mark Coleman - February 26, 2006 – PRIDE 31
Result – Coleman TKO1

Rua’s defeat of Arona left only one thing for him to accomplish, and that was to add a legend to his resume. Mark Coleman was designated to be that legend, but what was shaping up to be an interesting contest instead ended abruptly when a Coleman takedown dislocated Rua’s elbow, forcing an immediate halt to the bout. And what was even more interesting than the bout itself was the post-fight melee in the ring that included Wanderlei Silva and Phil Baroni. Time healed the bad blood between the two, but they would meet again nearly three years later in the UFC, with Rua scoring a third round TKO win.

Cyrille Diabate – September 10, 2006 – PRIDE Final Conflict Absolute
Result – Rua TKO1

In his first fight following the injury suffered in the Coleman loss, Rua was matched with kickboxing standout Cyrille “The Snake” Diabate,  a current UFC vet. Diabate may have been the best pure technical striker Rua had ever faced, and his prowess was evident early. In response, Rua did what all smart fighters do – he took the fight to his side of the playing field, and for him that was to the canvas. Rua dominated on the ground, but then finished things off with the stomps that are not legal here in the UFC. Rua was back.

Kevin Randleman – October 21, 2006 – PRIDE 32
Result – Rua Wsub1

As one of the featured fighters on PRIDE’s first United States show, Rua wanted to leave an impression on Stateside fans, and what better way to do it than to beat the Hammer House teammate of Coleman, former UFC heavyweight champion Kevin Randleman? Plus, like Quinton Jackson, Randleman held a win over Rua’s brother Murilo, so that added to Shogun’s incentive. “The Monster” tore after Rua at the opening bell, but the poised Brazilian weathered the storm and submitted Randleman.

Forrest Griffin – September 22, 2007 – UFC 76
Result – Griffin Wsub3 I (Watch Video)

With the demise of the PRIDE organization, Rua moved over to the UFC, and his debut against Forrest Griffin was one of the most highly-anticipated ever. But by the time Griffin submitted Rua with a rear naked choke at 4:45 of the third round, the fight turned into one of the year’s biggest upsets, and forced Rua back to the drawing board as he looked to re-establish himself.

Chuck Liddell – April 18, 2009 – UFC 97
Result – Rua TKO1 I (Watch Video)

After two knee surgeries, Rua returned to the Octagon in January of 2009 to take on old nemesis Coleman, and while he still didn’t look like the old “Shogun,” Rua did stop the UFC Hall of Famer in the final round. But it was a Montreal fight against future Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell that would tell whether Rua was truly back or not, and a 100 percent healthy “Shogun” delivered the goods at UFC 97, knocking Liddell out in the first round. It may have been Rua’s most satisfying win.

Lyoto Machida – October 24, 2009 – UFC 104
Result – Machida W5

The back to back stoppages of Coleman and Liddell put Rua in line for a shot at newly crowned Lyoto Machida, and he got his shot in Los Angeles at UFC 104. Before the fight, the unbeaten Machida was seen as virtually unbeatable, with his unorthodox style a puzzle that few, if any, would be able to figure out. Rua came up with a master plan though, and by using his aggressiveness in spurts, he was able to baffle Machida during the 25 minute battle.

When it was over, many believed a new champion would be crowned, but by razor-thin scores of 48-47 across the board, Machida retained the belt.

“In my point of view, I think I won the last three rounds of the fight,” said Rua after the bout. “Everybody that has spoken to me after the fight has told me the same, that I won the fight, so what can I do? A fight is a fight and it’s very disappointing.”

The subsequent outrage from fans prompted an immediate rematch, and on May 8, 2009, Rua would get his shot at redemption.

Lyoto Machida II – May 8, 2010 – UFC 113
Result – Rua KO1 I (Watch Video)

The official time will say that it took Rua three minutes and 35 seconds to knock out Lyoto Machida in their rematch at UFC 113, but getting to that point in his career took years of spectacular highs and devastating lows. And this was certainly one of those highs, as he cracked the seemingly undecipherable style of Machida and sent him crashing to his first pro defeat. More importantly, the win earned Rua the UFC light heavyweight title. At last, “Shogun” was a world champion.

Dan Henderson – November 19, 2011 – UFC 139
Result – Henderson W5 I (Watch Video)

Rua’s reign atop the 205-pound weight class wouldn’t last long, as he was stopped by late replacement Jon Jones at UFC 128 in March of 2011. Disappointed but not deterred, Rua bounced back five months later with a blistering first round finish of Forrest Griffin that earned “Shogun” a bit of redemption for his opening UFC defeat. In November of 2011, Rua would end up on the short end of a five round decision to former PRIDE colleague Dan Henderson, but the end result doesn’t even begin to tell the tale of an epic 25 minute struggle that earned praise from the masses as one of the greatest MMA fights of all-time, if not the greatest. It was that good. On August 17, Rua looks to add another highlight to his storied career when he faces Chael Sonnen.

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