(ESPN talks redemption with "Shogun" Rua.)
While much has been made about the ‘dazzle me or hang ‘em up’ ultimatum that Dana White issued Chuck Liddell in the press, the man across from him in the Octagon is also in an obviously dire situation. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is 1-1 in the UFC and has yet to look like he belongs in a light heavyweight division thick with talented fighters. But unlike Liddell, Rua’s problem isn’t that he’s slowing down as a natural side effect of age. Instead he seems to have lost his explosiveness while at the same time developing the cardio of a toddler.
There are two commonly offered explanations for why this happened to the man who looked like Pride’s best 205-pounder just a couple years ago.
1) Knee injuries, followed by surgeries and rehab, have left him with too little time to train hard, resulting in him fighting at far less than 100%.
2) Now fighting in the UFC and subject to actual drug tests, he has to perform without the oft-rumored pharmaceutical assistance that was said to be rampant in Pride.
The first explanation is rooted more in provable fact, while the second one just feels true to many people who can’t think of any other reason why a guy who was a monster in Japan is suddenly a kitten in the U.S. Naturally, Rua points to the first explanation, and if we’re giving him the benefit of the doubt we have to admit that he has a point.
But whatever good will “Shogun” had built up in his Pride days evaporated when he wheezed his way through a bout with Mark Coleman, who looked like he might keel over at any moment himself. Liddell may have to “dazzle” Dana White in order to prove that he’s not too far past his prime, but Rua is still a young man. He has to demonstrate without a doubt that his struggles are behind him. It won’t be enough simply to hang with Liddell. He has to dismantle him. If it goes the distance he needs to end the fight looking like he could go three more rounds.
Because if he doesn’t. If he gasses out or gets knocked out, it gets very difficult to justify his continued presence in the UFC. It also lends credence to the theory that performance-enhancers were responsible for his success in Pride. In other words, “Shogun” needs to show up looking like this guy, sans the soccer kicks and face stomps:
Against a still dangerous Chuck Liddell fighting for his professional life, that’s not so easy. Does "Shogun" still have it in him, or will he become another cautionary tale?