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Has the UFC finally found its true light heavyweight king?

In the wake of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua’s astonishing destruction of previously untouchable karateka Lyoto Machida during UFC 113, the big question on the lips of the entire MMA world now is; has the UFC finally found its true light heavyweight king?

Of course the UFC light heavyweight division has always been stacked with the most recognized and marketable fighters on the planet. The all-American poster boys that revolutionized the sport during the Zuffa inspired world-wide MMA renaissance were almost all 205-pounders. While boxing had the heavyweights, the UFC had the light heavies.

First it was Tito “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Ortiz. He was the brash and cocky kid who brutalised an under skilled division with his god given strength and vicious elbows inside the guard. Then it was Randy “The Natural” Couture, or simply “Captain America.” He was the ageless and affable American hero who made a habit of shocking the world with his grit and world class wrestling ability. And finally it was Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell. He was the mohawked knock-out artist with impregnable takedown defense who beat down both Ortiz and Couture twice on his way to becoming MMA’s first true cross-over star. Yes, since its inception on May 4 2001, the UFC light heavyweight division had always boasted a true divisional king.

Then on May 26 2007 at UFC 71, barely three weeks after becoming the first MMA fighter to grace the cover of ESPN Magazine, Liddell’s impressive run come to a somewhat embarrassing halt courtesy of a Quinton “Rampage” Jackson blazing right hook. Not only did Liddell’s nemesis shake up the entire MMA world that night, he also threw the UFC into a divisional tailspin it’s yet to fully recover from.

Three years down the road and the coveted UFC light heavyweight belt has changed hands a record five times. While Jackson made a solitary title defence against Dan Henderson at UFC 75, he soon relinquished it to Forrest Griffin at UFC 86. Griffin promptly lost it to fellow TUF alumni Rashad Evans at UFC 92 who in turn lost it to Lyoto Machida at UFC 98. And the game of musical chairs continued as Machida, who despite controversially coming up trumps in their first bout, was belatedly sent packing by a surprisingly resurgent Shogun last weekend at UFC 113. While Jackson, Griffin, Evans and Machida were thoroughly deserved champions, kings they were not.

So does Mauricio “Shogun” Rua have the minerals to pick up where Liddell left off and lord over the UFC light heavyweight division?

To answer that question it might pay to take a look back over Shogun’s relatively short but storied career as even at a glance it soon becomes obvious the former Wanderlei Silva prodigy has the pedigree to do just that. Groomed at the world famous Chute Boxe Academy in Brazil, he started training Muay Thai and BJJ at an early age, earning his black-belt in just five years. Then in 2005, at only 23 years of age, he freight-trained his way through the Pride Light Heavyweight Grand Prix on his way to taking out arguably the world’s most prestigious 205-pound event at the time. And it was no easy run as stomp victims Quinton Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueria, Alistair Overeem and Ricardo Arona will surely attest. Since leaving Japan, despite experiencing a horror run of injuries, he’s unquestionably evolved into one of the finest strikers in the UFC and sports an incredibly dangerous submission game to boot. His only apparent flaw, the suspect gas tank that let him down against Renato Sobral and Forrest Griffin, appears to be rectified.

Now, at just 28 years of age and sporting an impressive record of 19-4-0 with 17 finishes, Shogun looks for all money to possess the kind of raw physical and technical attributes that can certainly place him alongside the likes of Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre in the MMA world. And his conquest of Machida could possibly be the beginning of a lengthy win streak that sees him clean out the entire division.

So, has the UFC finally found its new light heavyweight king in Mauricio “Shogun” Rua? Absolutely… that is, until he’s dethroned by a kid nicknamed “Bones”.

To be continued…

28 COMMENTS
  • blue says:

    He has the potential, he has the talent but he should defend the belt at least once before this conversation is creditable. The LHW division is just stacked with names.

  • fanoftna33 says:

    I find it hard to belive he will rule the LHW division like a Lidell or Ortiz did just a few yeasr after two very bad fights against Griffen and Coleman. Lets see how he handles his next few title defenses before bringing his name up as the best LHW out there.

  • one zero five says:

    I agree with Blue… a bit early to claim Shogun as a raining, unbeatable champ.. But I must agree, Shogun’s never looked better. I truthfully believe Machida would have been crowned as the supreme champ had Shogun not tricked over into the castle. If he keeps his drive/motivation running, I can see him there for a while.

    But I do like the last bit of this article.. I 100% agree with the extreme potential in Jones. Before the last Shogun fight, I only believed it to be a matter of time before he took the belt. But if Shogun can keep up his performances like the stunning Machida Rematch… it would be all up in the air…

  • Guthookd says:

    I’m going to go ahead and say no, Shogun will not rule the LHW division with an iron fist for any length of time. He will loose the belt within his first 1-2 defenses. I dont’ think he is what he once was and I think we’ll see that come out soon. I’d give him 50/50 odds with any of the other top 205’ers in the UFC.

  • JBAR says:

    With the loss to Forrest on his record plus the “loss” to machida on his record and given the deep talent pool at 205 I think it will take more than one or two title fight wins before we crown him the king. He caught Machida and rocked him and finished the fight. The fight turned on that one punch and it could happen to anybody, even Shogun. I could see a rematch between Shogun and Machida if Machida comes back with a strong win. I could see a rematch with Shogun and Forrest if Forrest can get a couple quality wins so Shogun can try to avenge his loss and show it was a fluke. This is assuming Shogun can get past the Rampage / Rashad winner, both of which can knock him silly with one punch just like he did to Machida.

  • MCM says:

    Like everyone else said, way too early to claim Shogun as the king. Shogun has only had two impressive performances in his UFC career, and both of those were against Machida. He may be the LHW champ but he’s only 3-2 in the UFC. Let him defend the title at least once before we put him in with the likes of such Dominating champs as Chuck and Tito.

  • robbank says:

    Shogun will stay UFC LHW champ for a long time. He was the most dominant 205-pounder in Pride for almost three years (2005-2007) even though he did’nt have the belt because he did not want to fight his friend Wanderlei. During that period he was ranked no 1 in the world in most rankings (Pride had alot better fighters then UFC at that time). He has beaten Quinton Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Alistair Overeem (two times!), Ricardo Arona, Mark Coleman, Akihiro Gono, Chuck Liddell and Lyoto Machida…All by knockout…

    No other 205-pounder comes even close to that resume and his still a young fighter…

    He would probably put “Bones” in the hospital if they fought…

  • Screenplaya says:

    I did, but no longer do, doubt Shogun. He is obviously the real deal. The main problem I see is that there is a crazy list of ungodly monsters fighting at 205 in the UFC.

    Also, I agree with the intimation made at the end of the article. One day, the 205 division could become the world of Jon Jones, and Rua, et al. will just be living in it.

  • Rece Rock says:

    The LHW Division has far to much talent to just put it on one guys back… there are so many factors involved… even the potential for heavier or lighter fighters whom have ambitions of moving to LHW… I don’t know if we can select any one fighter any time soon actually.

  • Vogairian says:

    I can’t see him holding it for more than a defense or two. The division is too good with too many good young guys on their way up and Anderson lurking in the weeds. Right now the LHW is a Rock, Paper, Scissor division, it’s all matchups. It wouldn’t shock me at all if Rashad beat him or if Machida came back and took him in a third bout.

  • Rich S. says:

    I’m just glad that, after a few lackluster early bouts in the UFC, he has finally gotten back to his old, aggressive, brutal ways..

    There’s nothing cooler than seeing Shogun do work in the cage..

  • Yourdaddydevilandlord says:

    How thrilled is Rampage to know that a win over Rashad would send him straight into the Shogun buzzsaw that his ribs are still hanging from. Their fight in Pride was just a vicious mauling, Rampage couldn’t do anything and knew it. He probably is hoping for a respectable, hard fought decision loss to Rashad so he doesn’t have to see Shogun again. (yeah I know, none of these guys wants to lose, yada yada yada. Go look at the look in his eyes in that Pride fight and tell me he wants a piece of Rua.) I want Anderson Silva vs Shogun or the aforementioned Bones. I don’t care about ready or deserving, I care about exciting and that is what makes Bones deserving. Give me Silva/Bones at LHW for a shot against the champ, as soon as Bones was finished pulling shards of Vera’s face out of his elbow.

  • Lethal Liquid says:

    This division is the Shark Tank. ShoGun won’t be holding the belt long. Any weakness is exploited. Blood in the blood in the water. Oh yea and Bones will ascend to the throne 2011

  • Niv says:

    Poor Shogun, no-one wants to believe in him still even after his two showings against Machida who everyone was calling unbeatable. Machida fans still can’t believe what they saw the first fight and now the second was simply a lucky punch and he followed him to the ground.

    Luck punch? I don’t know but I’ve watched it a few times Shogun didn’t have his eyes closed, the punch went right where he was looking and like any good fighter pounced and finished the job. I just don’t get the nonsense comments trying to make him sound lucky.

    I knew the day I heard Shogun was signed by the UFC he’d be the poster boy of the LHW division.

    He never lost his status as the best LHW fighter to anyone other than a series of devastating injuries and dumb pride. If he canceled his bout as he should of against Forrest he wouldn’t have that loss on his record for everyone to question.

    Rua was always famous for his large gas tank and all out fighting style, he has the most well rounded game of anyone in the LHW division and I dare say the belt is his for as long as he’s healthy and focused.

    Shogun will be remembered as the best LHW mma artist of all time by the time his career is over.

    Thought I’d go out on a limb here just a bit, but I’m pretty confident with that statement.

  • crane_style says:

    I’m a fan of Shogun, and I think he has a lot going for him. Besides power and skill, the guy has an iron chin.

    He’s never been knocked out and the only tko against him was when Mark Coleman broke his arm. In his 1st fight with the Dragon, he took a few shots that would have sent most fighters to the canvas.

    Having said that, I think how long he’s champ partly depends on who he fights. Just like Shogun matched up well against Lyoto, there might be someone who will find/is Rua’s achilles heel.

    I think Rashad has a similar style to his own, which could cause him problems. Or maybe, since most of his losses have been by submission, that will be his weak spot.

    My guess is that Rua will keep the title for at least 2 more successful defenses before he is beat.

    The sport of MMA is growing fast, and so is the competition, so I think guys like GSP, Silva, who hold onto their titles for years, will become more and more rare.

  • JBAR says:

    Niv, I have not seen any comments calling it a lucky punch. The closest would be mine where I stated he caught Machida, rocked him and finished him. Taking nothing away from Shogun, just stating that any fight can turn or end on that one punch. Machida and Shogun had a 5 round battle that I had Shogun winning like all but a few people. This one ended in the first because the one good punch landed. A good punch, not lucky, and Shogun finished the fight. like a great fighter is supposed to do. My point was that Shogun could suffer the same fate with all of the talent at 205 and I would like to see him get a few more wins before calling him the new king. Until then I will call him what he is, a deserving champion that I have enjoyed watching since his Pride days who has the potential to hold on to the belt for a long time.

  • Niv says:

    JBAR, sorry I may have read more into that comment than I should have.

    I’ve read an awful lot of comments on other sites where the lucky punch becomes a theme for some and it bugs me.

    Sure anyone can get caught agreed, but until I see a fight where Shogun’s chin even comes close to looking vulnerable I won’t worry about that.

    The guy has proven he has an iron chin and skills to take a fight anywhere.

    I like to think of the Overeem vs Shogun 2 fight where Overeem actually threw Rua to the ground a couple times and was manhandling him a bit. One of Rua’s strengths is his composure and willingness to keep pressuring, that’s when he turned the tables ,got Overeem on his back and then landed that amazing flying through the air ko.

    One of my all-time favourite finishes.

    I’m just happy to say there will be no boring LHW title defences for a while.

  • BigDave says:

    Rua’s skill level can’t be questioned, he is one of the most gifted fighters i have ever had the pleasure of watching. That being said with the seemingly endless supply of fighters in the 205 ranks, for me to put rua at the top of the heep he first needs to beat rashad or rampage, then there are the likes of silva who I personally think is way overrated given his recent performances. Then what can I say about Jon bones Jones….This kid has scary ability and if he ever gets the disapline in check there is no reason why he can’t be an instant threat to anyone in the division. Then If Shogun is able to do all that then he will be up there with St. Pierre. But for the time being i will continue to enjoy watching what transpires in the UFC LHW division.

  • MCM says:

    Shogun will stay UFC LHW champ for a long time. He has beaten Quinton Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Alistair Overeem (two times!), Ricardo Arona, Mark Coleman, Akihiro Gono, Chuck Liddell and Lyoto Machida…All by knockout…

    I agree that Shogun is one hell of a fighter and I don’t see anyone in the division that would walk right through him, but your list is a little misleading.
    Rampage and Gono were Soccer Kick KO’s, don’t expect that in the UFC.
    He’s 1-1 with both Machida and Coleman, (and the second Coleman fight was like watching a TUF 10 match on PPV.)
    And it’s not like KOing Liddell was something unique at the time.

    I’m not trying to put down Shogun, but we heard the same sort of “invincible” talk about Machida after he won the title and look what happened in his first defence.

  • Mad_Hatter_XX says:

    Whatever happens I just want to see competitive fights. I would rather the LHW division be “a shark tank” where every contender has a legit chance to become champ.

    If Shogun can stay atop the division for a length of time then good for him. If he gets beat in his next defense then so be it. Without some suspense or drama things wouldn’t be exciting.

    I just don’t want to see 205 turn into the next 170 where no competitor is more than a huge underdog due the the current champ being just so much better than rest of division.

    I wouldn’t be upset if title changed hands 4 times a year and I would be just as satisfied if Shogun held it for next 2 years as long as the fights are worth my PPV $$s

  • Creature says:

    Ha well i hope shogun enjoys the title while it lasts, cuz its not gonna last 4 long, shogun is good but hes not the best LHW in the UFC, i can see many fighters beating him, if he can get through rampage, rashad, couture, lil nog, forrest, bones jones, THEN i will consider him on the same level as st pierre,

    oh and i believe forrest would win if he and shogun fought again, i think forrest is 2 underatted, same with couture, never doubt captain america

  • LiverPunch says:

    Lyoto was just a puzzle that was taking time to figure out. Shogun found the key and exploited it (in both fights). But to say he will be king with the likes of Rampage, Couture, Anderson Silva, Little Nog and Rashad all in line,as well as a Machida with something to prove, is premature to say the least.

  • bigbadjohn says:

    Hes as good a fighter the division has. But this division is just too deep to hold hostage. Until someone can develop a specific strength that is far superior to the rest of contenders, ie GSPs wrestling, Silvas striking, even Lesnars size arguably, the belt will be a hot potato. and hey maybe Anderson will bring that key superiority to LW

  • bigbadjohn says:

    D’oh! LHW*

  • Jstew3785 says:

    If Shogun fights to his potential I can’t really think of anyone who could beat him. Maybe Rashad could try to lay on him but Shogun has a very dangerous guard so I don’t see that happening. He destroyed Rampage back in Pride and in my opinion I would see the rematch going down pretty much the same way. Jon Jones is a scary dude and I think he would give Shogun a run for his money but Shogun has more tools to win that fight. I know anything can happen on any given night so I’m not saying it’s impossible for Shogun to lose, but on paper it doesn’t seem likely. Bring on Little Nog after he destroys what’s his face

  • JabCrossHook says:

    Lyoto was just a puzzle that was taking time to figure out. Shogun found the key and exploited it (in both fights). But to say he will be king with the likes of Rampage, Couture, Anderson Silva, Little Nog and Rashad all in line,as well as a Machida with something to prove, is premature to say the least.  

    Well he fought Rampage and Lil Nog (which was a complete all out war, most def. fight of the year status) and he won both. Couture is kinda slow and I don’t know, the way vera almost finished him twice I don’t see him lasting with the likes of Shogun striking. The only time I’ve ever seen Shogun rocked hard and actually fall was against lil nog back in pride.

  • nerfcrotchaxe says:

    I think Jones still has to be tested, I dont believe that wins over brandon vera, jake obrien, and stephan bonner can convince me that he could hang with shogun. Especially when you consider the laundry list of bad asses that rua has destroyed. I think his “countering while taking a hit” style could give a lot of people trouble… you can never really be sure how a fight will turn out in such a competetive weight class but I can say i think shogun will smash everyone in LHW and keep a straight face. Especially since he has shown that he can be patient and strategic and know when to go in for the kill in equal measure.

  • LiverPunch says:

    So jab cross hook rematches never have different results?
    I was not aware of that. Call off all rematches! we already know who will win…not.
    I am not sure but I think Couture has been doubted before also.

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