Dan Henderson may not know this, but Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua is something of an expert at exacting revenge.
The former PRIDE Grand Prix champions headline UFC Fight Night 38 over two years removed from a fight that solidified their names as mixed martial arts icons. Since Henderson’s victory, the fighters have slipped into mediocrity, bringing their futures with the promotion into question. Henderson has lost three in a row while Rua has split four decision, defeating Brandon Vera and James Te-Huna and losing to Chael Sonnen and Alexander Gustafsson, respectively.
The Brazilian’s track record proves that rematches are his specialty. After losing to UFC Hall of Famer Mark Coleman at PRIDE 31, ‘Shogun’ knocked him out three years later. He avenged a UFC 76 loss to Forrest Griffin by beating the former light heavyweight champ less than two minutes into their August 2011 meeting. Finally, Rua won the UFC light heavyweight title from Lyoto Machida months after losing their initial showdown at UFC 104. Next on the list, a win over Henderson.
Unlike ‘Hendo’, a 42-year-old fighter searching for relevancy, Rua has the youthfulness for a clean slate. Sunday’s main event is more than a chance at retribution, it’s an opportunity to end an uninspiring three-year stretch where Rua has tight roped his way into staying in the UFC.
‘Shogun’ recently revealed that he’s lacked motivation over the last few years, saying that he was a face in the crowd when training in Curitiba, Brazil. Now, with the help of Demian Maia and Daniel Sarafian, Rua has a crew that focuses solely on him at a camp in Sao Paulo.
Going into his UFC Fight Night 33 bout with Te-Huna, Rua was in serious jeopardy of being cut. UFC President Dana White said as much when stating that he would “probably have [the retirement] conversation” with Rua following a loss. ‘Shogun’ won that night, but that may not have completely changed White’s perception.
Rua’s career is at a crossroads. A victory inspires confidence in himself and White. Losing his third of four matches, however, shows that his training camp was never the problem. If Rua can’t beat a fighter who’s in the twilight of his career, what change does he have in the talent-rich light heavyweight division?
History affirms that this fight is tailor-made for Rua. Youth and confidence are on his side, and if he doesn’t tire early, Rua will find the knockout swing that’s earned him so many victories over the years. For ‘Shogun’, beating Henderson is one thing; proving that he still has what it takes to be a champion is something else.
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