Former UFC light heavyweight champion and PRIDE legend Shogun Rua returns to action at UFC Sao Paulo this weekend against Paul Craig, with a win crucial to his hopes for one last run at gold.
Few fighters in MMA have bounced back from a serious run of disappointing performances. Even fewer have even managed to rack up a credible winning streak after falling from grace. One of the most popular examples is Andrei Arlovski, who bounced back from a 4-fight losing streak to have a run at the UFC heavyweight championship, but such cases are very rare. This weekend, Shogun Rua has that chance.
Entering his bout this weekend fight against Paul Craig, Mauricio Rua stands at 4-1 in his last five fights. He is coming off a big win in his last outing, with a late third round knockout of prospect Tyson Pedro. The PRIDE legend’s only loss in almost four years came to former title-challenger Anthony Smith. The most stunning part of his slow climb to the top is that back in 2014, people had written him off.
By 2015, when Rua was scheduled to face Antônio Rogério Nogueira, it wasn’t expected that his career would go on much longer. He was 1-4 through five bouts at the time, and hadn’t seen a quality win in over three years. However, that night he turned things around for himself by not only winning the fight but earning a Fight of the Night bonus. He later went on a 3-fight winning streak that added a lot of weight to his grand resume. Especially given it was the longest winning streak of his UFC tenure, despite being a former light heavyweight champ.
This weekend Shogun has his chance at moving back into contention, or as a dark horse, a shot at gold, which many thought he might never even touch. This is due to two reasons. First, the serious absence of contenders in the light heavyweight division. With no credible title challengers in line, with his record, it shouldn’t be difficult for Rua to receive a title shot.
Second, is the invincible statue of the division champion, Jon Jones. Over the years “Bones” has earned a reputation of being impossible to beat. With this fan perception, it wouldn’t be difficult to sell this fight. If Jones is going to win every fight then why not have him face someone with plenty of name value, who is a legend of the division. It would also bring things full circle: Jones defeated Rua in their first meeting in 2011, to end Rua’s brief reign as champ and kick off his own.
However, for any of this to actually happen, Rua will have to deal with Craig first. Craig is a decorated submission specialist. At no point in the fight can you consider him down and out. You never know what Craig has planned, and he boasts a last-second finish on his record. In short, Saturday is a tough test for Rua which should also determine if he’s ready for one last run.
UFC Sao Paulo will be live on ESPN+ in the USA, TSN 5 in Canada on November 16, and Sony TEN 2 and Sony TEN 2 HD in India on November 17.