The Mauricio “Shogun” Rua that fans witnessed at UFC 97 looked very similar to the one that dominated the 205-pound division three years and two knee surgeries ago.
“A lot of people were dogging Shogun about his last few performances,” said UFC president Dana White. “I said this probably many times before the fight: The kid had two knee surgeries. He was off for a long time, and he had ring rust. The best thing he could of done was jump back on the bike.”
Shogun had a ton of bounce in his step, putting to bed all questions surrounding his conditioning issues. He also unleashed a precise and diversified barrage of strikes that kept future UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell off balance before finally dropping him with a left hook, ultimately ending the fight and probably his career.
“I am very happy with my performance,” Rua said. “I did everything that I could do right. I prepared right. I ate right. I dedicated myself the most so I could say that I gave a good performance and I showcased my best. I hope to stay like this.”
The Brazilian credits his turnaround to the most accelerated and intense training camp of his career. Team Shogun made sure their boy was fully prepared to re-emerge as the world’s best light heavyweight.
“My strategy was to fight three rounds with [Liddell] standing up because I understand that he is a very good wrestler, that I could get very tired trying to take him down, forcing the takedowns,” Rua said of his game plan. “I understood I had to train standup and exchange blows with him. That was the only way to fight.”
Ironically, Saturday night’s bout may end up being a passing of the torch of sorts, as Liddell is now leaning towards hanging up his gloves, while Shogun appears fully prepared to run the division that The Iceman once laid claim to.
“Shogun proved tonight that he’s back,” White said. “He looked amazing. He’s another interesting guy in the 205-pound division.”
If by “interesting” you mean future title holder, then definitely.