The Career Of Maurício "Shogun" Rua

The Career Of Maurício "Shogun" Rua

By Liam Lindsay
Thursday, January 19, 2023, 17 days ago

Maurício Milani Rua, better known to the fans as "Shogun," is a true veteran of combat sports, training since just six years old. He has been fighting professionally since 2002. Now, still fighting at 41 years of age, and approaching the confirmed final fight of his career, let's take a look back at the impressive and vastly underrated career of Maurício "Shogun" Rua.

The Brazilian Way

Shogun was born in Curitiba, Brazil as the middle sibling of three Rua brothers. His father was a successful businessman, and his mother was a track athlete and marathon runner. He followed his older brother, Murilo Rua, and began training in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu at just six years old and started Muay Thai training a year later. Shogun and his brother would begin training at Chute Box Academy, one of the most prestigious academies recognized in combat sports, with notable fighters like Anderson Silva, Cris Cyborg, and Wanderlei Silva winning championships through the tutilage of Chute Box Academy. While at Chute Box, he would partake in many blue and purple belt Jiu-Jitsu competitions and amateur Muay Thai fights, where he would find great success before making his inevitable professional debut on the 8th of November 2002.

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Vale Tudo Fighting and Pride Debut

Shogun would fight his first three fights under Vale Tudo rule in Brazil, winning all three by brutal KO, including a soccer kick knockout. Vale Tudo is the predecessor to MMA, a much more extreme version that lacks the rules the modern era enforces. After winning his first three bouts, he would debut in the USA at International Fighting Championship 17. Shogun would win his first bout in the promotion but lose in his next fight against Renato Sobral. Although he took an early loss in his career, he was not deterred, as in just his next bout, he would debut in Pride FC, an incredibly famous Japanese fighting promotion that reigned as the most popular MMA promotion until the UFC. Motivated by his first loss, Shogun would go on an absurd run in Pride FC, winning eleven of his twelve fights, and 10 of them coming by knockout. His first fight would be against Japanese talent Akira Shoji, and he would score a first-round KO after landing a brutal knee on Shoji, knocking him out cold.

Mauricio Rua landing a devistating knee of Akira Shoji at PRIDE Bushido 1. Credits to Andrew Mahlmann - Bleacher Report.
Mauricio Rua landing a devistating knee of Akira Shoji at PRIDE Bushido 1. Credits to Andrew Mahlmann - Bleacher Report.

After announcing himself on the Pride scene, Shogun would win his next three fights by first-round KO/TKO against Japanese standouts Akihiro Gono, Yasuhito Namekawa, and Hiromitsu Kanehara.

Shoguns Legendary 2005 Run

Now 4-0 in Pride FC, Shogun would enter the 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix, a sixteen-man tournament that spanned across three events. In the opening round, he would face Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, a man who had previously beaten his brother by a split decision. Looking for revenge in this bout, Shogun would dominate Jackson by tearing him up in the clinch and eventually finishing the fight in the first round by blasting Jackson with soccer kicks. Moving into the quarter-final, he would face Antônio Rogério Nogueira and win the fight unanimously on the scorecards, the first decision of his career. This bout would be closely contested, but Shogun would drop Nogueira and win most of the wrestling exchanges, which would earn him the decision victory.

Mauricio Rua and Antônio Rogério Nogueira brawling at PRIDE Critical Countdown 2005. Credits to: Mike Fagan - Bloody Elbow.
Mauricio Rua and Antônio Rogério Nogueira brawling at PRIDE Critical Countdown 2005. Credits to: Mike Fagan - Bloody Elbow.

On the 28th of August 2005, Shogun would fight in the semi-finals against Dutch kickboxer Alistair Overeem. He would win the majority of the contest, using his clinches and wrestling to overpower the bigger Overeem, and would eventually finish him with ground and pound strikes. Allowing him to move on to the finals; on the same night, Shogun would fight Ricardo Arona, who had just beaten Wanderlei Silva to move into the final. He would secure a devastating knockout 3 minutes into the match via a crushing stomp kick in this matchup. With this victory, Shogun became the Pride Champion and completed one of the most incredible years in MMA history.

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End of Pride Career

Shogun would fight four times in 2006, despite starting the year on a rough note. In his first bout, he suffered a freak accident just 50 seconds into his bout with Mark Coleman after attempting to post on his arm and dislocating his elbow. This loss would blemish his undefeated Pride run but wouldn't deter him as he would return in just seven months. His last three fights in 2006 would come against Cyrille Diabaté, Kevin Randleman, and Kazuhiro Nakamura. Despite getting rocked early, Shogun would TKO Diabaté with ground and pound strikes. Then he would return the following month in October and beat Randleman by submission, the first and only of his entire fighting career. Finally, on new year's eve, he fought to the second decision of his career against Nakamura in a boring fight where he struggled with his cardio. At the start of 2007, Shogun would fight his final fight in Pride FC in a rematch against Alistair Overeem.

Mauricio Rua missing a kick on Alistair Overeem at PRIDE 33. Credits to Andrew Mahlmann - Bleacher Report.
Mauricio Rua missing a kick on Alistair Overeem at PRIDE 33. Credits to Andrew Mahlmann - Bleacher Report.

Despite Overeem finding more success in this contest with his kickboxing, he would succumb to Shogun's nasty ground and pound once again, and Shogun would walk out of Pride a winner. Many people worldwide considered him to be the greatest Light-Heavyweight fighter then.

Mauricio Rua Shocks the UFC

In 2007, the UFC purchased Pride FC to eliminate them as a competitor in the promotional circuit. Shogun was left with an option to either find somewhere else to fight or sign a deal with the UFC, and he chose the latter. In his UFC debut, he would be matched up with Forrest Griffin, who was The Ultimate Fighter season 1 winner. The oddsmakers believed that Shogun would dominate Griffin, as he was considered the superior martial artist wherever the fight would go. However, Shogun would display similar cardio problems he had in the fight with Nakamura and, in turn, would tire early in the fight. These issues allowed Griffin to ramp up the pressure throughout the fight, and he would secure a rear-naked choke in the dying seconds of the 3rd round. To this day, Griffin submitting Shogun is considered one of the biggest upsets in UFC history. Shogun would later reveal that he was suffering from knee problems going into the Griffin fight and would require surgery. While recovering from surgery, he left his long-time gym, Chute Box Academy, on a good note to start a new gym alongside his brother, Universidade Da Luta, which translates to "The University Of Fighting." As he nearly recovered from his surgery, he began training again at his new gym. But, during training, he would rupture his already damaged knee ligaments and require a second knee surgery, which would sideline him for all of 2008.

Mauricio Rua training at Universidade Da Luta in 2011. Credits to: Thomas Gerbasi - UFC.
Mauricio Rua training at Universidade Da Luta in 2011. Credits to: Thomas Gerbasi - UFC.

Shogun would finally return on the 17th of January 2009. He would get his long-awaited rematch against Mark Coleman, attempting to avenge his only loss in Pride FC. After a competitive back-and-forth fight, Shogun caught an exhausted Coleman in the final 30 seconds of the fight with a brutal combination, winning him the fight via round three TKO. This win, although very belated, was the moment he was waiting for in the UFC, and now he was finally here. The battle against Coleman won him a fight of the night bonus, the first of many in his career. Now back on track to the UFC title, Shogun would face former UFC Champion and future Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell. He would dominate the fight by blocking most of Liddell's strikes with his tight guard and using this to blast Liddell with counterstrikes. At the end of the first round, Shogun would knock Liddell unconscious with a vicious left hook, earning him a knockout of the night bonus. This win would set him up with the Light-Heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida.

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The Championship Dream

On the 24th of October 2009, Shogun would face Lyoto Machida, headlining for the first time on UFC 104. Machida was the newly crowned champion of Light-Heavyweight, after dominating the former champion Rashad Evans before knocking him out in the second round. According to the oddsmakers, Shogun would enter the fight as a massive underdog. The fight itself was incredibly unique. Shogun would fight in a very heavy Muay Thai stance, and Machida would fight in his karate style, leading to a very technical but slow fight. The first three rounds would be competitive, but he would outstrike Machida in all three. Machida could not land on his head cleanly, as he would block up high and then counter with big leg and body kicks. By the end of the third round, Machida's legs and body were severely bruised. The continued attack from Shogun allowed him to dominate the 4th and 5th rounds, continuing to batter Machida's lower half. As the 5th round closed out, he lifted his hands in the air to celebrate his presumed new Championship accolade, and his corner lifted him up and around the octagon. The statistics of the fight showed that he had outstruck the karate fighter eighty strikes to just thirty-five, with forty-nine of those landed by Shogun being leg kicks. When Bruce Buffer came to read out the decision, it was a 48-47 unanimous victory, and still, Lyoto Machida. The crowd would go into an uproar, and rain boos down on the celebrating Machida, while Shogun stood and watched him do his post-fight interview, devastated. When Joe Rogan asked Shogun his opinion on the decision, Shogun showed humility and grace in a controversial defeat.

"I trained very hard for this fight... My coaches told me I won every round. But a fights a fight, what can you do?"
- Mauricio Rua.

The UFC would book an immediate rematch for UFC 113 on the 8th of May 2010. The start of this fight would see both fighters take new approaches. Despite scoring none throughout their entire first fight, Machida would score two takedowns in the first round, but Shogun was able to get back to his feet with ease and land shots in the clinch. Machida also focused on checking the leg kicks that hurt him badly in the first fight. On the other hand, while remaining patient, Shogun focused on blitzing combinations upstairs. Three minutes into the first round, Machida would massively over-commit on a straight, which he dodged and landed a counter overhand onto the top of Machida's head. Machida would fall to the ground, and he would finish the fight in the first round with ground and pound strikes, becoming the newly crowned UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion and the first man to defeat Lyoto Machida. This victory would also earn Shogun a knockout of the night bonus.

 Mauricio Rua celebrating with his team at UFC 113. Credits to: Brett Okamoto - Las Vegas Sun.
Mauricio Rua celebrating with his team at UFC 113. Credits to: Brett Okamoto - Las Vegas Sun.

Shogun's first title defense would come against Jon "Bones" Jones. Jones was on an incredible tear in the UFC, with his only loss in his entire career being a DQ against Matt Hamill for illegal elbow strikes. He would again enter this fight as an underdog, primarily due to the invincible aura surrounding Jones in his rise to the title shot. The odds would prove accurate, however, as Jones would destroy Shogun from the first round until the third, where he would finish him by TKO. Shogun could barely hit Jones on the feet and was dominated in the wrestling exchanges. Nevertheless, in his post-fight interview, he would remain a class act by congratulating Jones and admitting that he was simply the better fighter.

Must-See TV

Although no longer the champion, Shogun would continue to fight the best in his division. He would return to the octagon just six months after his loss to Jones to avenge another loss on his record against Forrest Griffin. He would look like an entirely different fighter against Griffin this time, patiently waiting and counterstriking when he needed to. In just the first round, he would land a bomb of a right hand on Griffin, which rocked him badly. He immediately followed up and finished the fight with ground-and-pound strikes, earning him yet another knockout of the night bonus. With this win, it was now the third of Shogun's five losses he had avenged.

Shogun's next fight would come against Dan Henderson on the 19th of November 2011 at UFC 139. Henderson was on one of the most significant winning streaks of his career, having knockout victories in his last three fights, one being against the legend Fedor Emelianenko and another against Renato Sobral, the first man ever to beat Shogun Rua. This fight is one of the greatest in UFC history, and describing it would not do justice. Shogun and Henderson would go to war for all five rounds; in the first round, both men would drop each other, with Henderson getting the better of the exchanges. In the second, Henderson would rock him badly, and in the third, Henderson would nuke him with a massive right hand and nearly get the finish. In the fourth, Shogun would survive an early submission scare and massive ground-and-pound strikes from Henderson.

Mauricio Rua and Dan Henderson brawling it out at UFC 139. Credits to: Kevin Haggerty - MMA Mania.
Mauricio Rua and Dan Henderson brawling it out at UFC 139. Credits to: Kevin Haggerty - MMA Mania.

Shogun would rally and rock Henderson late in the round with a massive uppercut before securing a takedown of his own and attacking him on the ground, nearly finishing Henderson with ground-and-pound strikes. In the fifth and final round, he would bulldoze Henderson, gaining complete control early and hammering Henderson with ground-and-pound strikes throughout the entire round. Henderson barely managed to survive the round, but the fight would go the distance after a razor-close fight. Bruce Buffer would announce the winner as Dan Henderson via a unanimous decision. Fans believed the fight should've been written as a tie due to Shogun's sheer domination in round 5. Although the loss was tough, this would earn him and Henderson a fight of the night award, completely justifiable for such a legendary fight.

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The Twilight of Shogun Rua

In the final stretch of Shogun's career, he would find mixed success. After the Henderson fight, he would face Brandon Vera in his next fight in the main event of UFC on Fox 4 on the 4th of August 2012. He would defeat Vera by TKO in the fourth round. He would then drop his next two fights, losing to Alexander Gustafsson by decision and Chael Sonnen by submission, marking the first time he lost back-to-back fights in his career. However, Shogun proved he could bounce back again, earning a knockout of the night bonus vs. James Te Huna. This fight set him up against Dan Henderson again, a rematch hd was begging to have, and the fans were certainly not complaining. It was time for him to try and settle the score one more time. In this bout, he would fight a much more technical and patient fight, not allowing Henderson to capitalize on the success he had in the first match. At the end of round one, he would drop Henderson and come close to getting the finish with ground and pound strikes, but the buzzer would sound before he could finish him. Shogun would drop Henderson again in the second round with a perfectly timed uppercut, but Henderson would recover quickly. Then, midway through the third round, he would stop a takedown attempt from Henderson but would not see a massive right hook. This shot would floor Shogun, and he would not recover in time, failing to avenge his first loss. However, this would earn another fight of the night bonus for his efforts.

Dan Henderson catching Mauricio Rua with a right hand. Credits to: Thomas Gerbas - UFC.
Dan Henderson catching Mauricio Rua with a right hand. Credits to: Thomas Gerbas - UFC.

Shogun would lose his next fight on the 8th of November 2014 against Ovince Saint Preux in just 34 seconds. Saint Preux would catch him blitzing forward and TKO him shortly after. Much like the rest of his losses in his career, Shogun wouldn't back down and went on his longest winning streak since 2007, defeating Antônio Rogério Nogueira in a rematch, and Corey Anderson, winning both fights by decision. He would also pick up a third-round TKO win against Gian Villante. On the 22nd of July 2018, he would then take a main event fight against opposing veteran Anthony Smith. He would be dominated and finished in the first round, and this fight showed that age was finally beginning to catch up with him.

Also in July, his fight with Dan Henderson was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, as one of the greatest fights in UFC History.

He would bounce back like he always does, defeating Australian prospect Tyson Pedro by TKO in the third round, earning him another performance of the night award. He would fight Paul Craig, a Scottish Jiu-Jitsu expert, in his next bout. Despite being a considerable underdog, he would survive a challenging first round to rally back in the second and third, with many people believing he got the decision against Craig. Despite this, the judges again gave him some controversial scorecards, scoring the fight a split draw. Shogun would complete a trilogy with Antônio Rogério Nogueira on the 26th of July 2020, winning for a third time in a competitive fight by split decision. He would then take an ill-fated rematch against Paul Craig, but this time he was TKOed halfway through the second round after being dominated for most of the fight. In his most recent fight, Shogun would fight another rematch against Ovicne Saint Preux at UFC 274 on the 7th of May 2022. Despite a close but largely uneventful fight, he would again lose on the scorecards by a controversial split decision.

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One Final Dance

Now, at a robust 41 years of age and a matching 41 professional fights under his belt, Shogun is heading into UFC 283 with one thing on his mind, winning. He confirmed in an interview that this would be his final fight and that he is incredibly grateful for everything in his career.

"I am happy with this fight, it will be my farewell, and I am happy that it will be in my country, at home... It's the farewell to Shogun in MMA... I'm an accomplished guy and grateful to God for everything I've achieved.
- Mauricio Rua. "

Shogun will be retiring with a large cabinet of awards throughout his entire career. The former Pride and UFC Champion, being inducted into the Hall Of Fame, and a combined eight performance bonuses throughout his entire career. He will face Ihor Potieria on the 21st of January, 2023. Do you think the legend will be able to gain one last win in his final dance for the sport? Let us know your prediction for the fight in the comments below!

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