According to the Daily Telegraph, former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio Rua and Australian contender James Te Huna have been booked to square off at the upcoming Fight Night 33: Hunt vs. Bigfoot, which goes down in Australia on December 6th.
The title says it all, really.
While this fight will likely turn into a slugfest rivaling Shogun’s scrap with Dan Henderson back at UFC 139 (let us not forget that Te Huna set a UFC record for significant strikes landed in a single round against Joey Beltran), it also reflects a somewhat significant step back in the career of Mauricio Rua. Not that Te Huna isn’t a great fighter — with 4 wins in his past 5 UFC contests, he surely is — but by pairing a legend like Rua with a relative unknown (by casual fans standards) like Te Huna, the UFC seems to be officially closing the book on Rua as a title contender.
With four losses in his past six contests and a career first two-fight skid coming at the hands of Alexander Gustafsson and Chael Sonnen, this is perhaps a revelation that we should have seen coming. However, for as long as we can remember, Rua has been one of the most intimidating forces in the sport, a perennial contender and a marquee fighter. To see him playing second fiddle to Antonio Silva (no offense) and fighting anyone less than a future title challenger or MMA megastar kind of erases, or at least blemishes, the mysticism that has existed around him for some time now. As did the fact that he was guillotined by Sonnen inside of a round in his last fight.
Again, given his current record and Te Huna’s undeniable skill, the pairing makes sense from both a matchmaker’s and a fan’s standpoint. Yet for some reason, it’s kind of disheartening. Maybe us PRIDE fanboys are just deifying Shogun out of some misplaced sense of devotion. Maybe we’re just not ready to see a Mauricio Rua who doesn’t command (and receive) the prime spotlight with his every performance.
There I go, making a mountain out of a molehill again. Like I said, Shogun vs. Te Huna will more than likely turn into a crowd-pleasing affair that silences anyone questioning why this fight was put together in the first place (mainly me). At the same time, Mauricio “Daimyo” Rua doesn’t exactly have the same pop to it.