It shouldn't come as a shock to anyone when I suggest that Mauricio "Shogun" Rua needs to keep his fight standing against Jon Jones if he expects to retain his light heavyweight belt when the two collide in their main event title fight at UFC 128 this Saturday night (March 19) in New Jersey.
While many fans know he "should," not many can explain "why."
Becoming a Muay Thai practitioner, studying the art for years and years and crafting the discipline to to reach the highest levels in mixed martial arts is nothing to sneeze at. While dishing out vicious leg kicks, highlight-reel head kicks and devastating knees, "Shogun" has made it known that his stand up is something all light heavyweights should fear.
From his stoppage victories over Cyrille Diabate and "Rampage" Jackson to his most recent wins over Chuck Liddell and Lyoto Machida, we've seen the crushing force that Rua can unleash. His combination of power and aggression usually spells disaster for his opponents.
Follow me after the jump to hear the many reasons:
The Brazilian has fought and defeated grapplers and basically anything else that's been thrown at him. "Shogun" is a master Muay Thai fighter who posesses the killer instinct of a typical Chute Box fighter and has already cemented himself as a mixed martial arts legend.
First let me say I highly doubt we'll see many head kicks coming from him on fight night due to the fact that kicks thrown high on a taller opponent with long limbs may result in a counter-slam or takedown.
Usually when you are off balance like (during a high kick) you end up giving up a dominant position.
What will make all the difference in this fight (if it stays on the feet) is Rua's crisp technical striking and his killer instinct. In the past, "Shogun" has been a bit sloppy in his strikes because he could usually get away with it. Against Jones, however, he has to be as crisp as possible to avoid the long reach and counter-punches that "Bones" will be looking for.
What he does so well against Akira Shoji in the above GIF is distance himself during the exchange. It's not the best display of footwork in the world, but what he does is land early and makes his opponent retreat. Once he does that, Rua swarms him with a nasty leg kick which clearly hurts -- especially since it was planted and was not checked by his opponent.
From there, he lands big punches using the momentum.
If Jones is brave enough to exchange with "Shogun" for a prolonged period of time, he will not be able to make a single mistake. That's because against a devastating striker like Rua, who throws both powerfully and accurately, he'll likely find himself swarmed.
And if there is any fighter who could be considered the best "closer" in the fight game when it comes to ending contests it's definitely Rua.
I'm going to say that while Rua has an amazing clinch game, Jones will be far too powerful to secure an advantageous Muay Thai Plum on effectively -- but that doesn't mean he will lose if the fight gets inside.
One disadvantage for Jones having such long limbs is when he misses punches, he missed them big, and it takes a nano-second longer to retrieve those limbs to defend and that may be all "Shogun" needs.
Rua is also very good at Thai boxing and is no slouch throwing leather from the pocket. From the GIF above you can see how active he is in his body movement and his arm/hand defense. He ducks the first punch, realigns his body and uses his arms to shield from a "Rampage" right hand.
Subtle moves like that win fights.
As you can see, Jackson is left wide open and he quickly covers up. In doing so, "Shogun" finds a home between the guard with a powerful uppercut that rocks him.
I have no doubt that "Shogun" can out-strike Jones from inside his range especially if he can cut the corners and get inside that long reach. If he does, Jones will be forced to retreat or clinch, both of which could lead to openings for the champion's powerful strikes.
This is what cutting off angles will do for a striker.
As seen above, Rua attacks from an angle as Machida throws punches. He overextends his punch, leaving his head completely unguarded. "Shogun" attacks from the same side Machida throws from, which basically renders "The Dragon's" other arm useless in defending.
Machida over-commits to the punch and Rua swarms.
This is something that Jones can find himself guilty of doing: Being stalked and over-committing to a strike. If he does, "Shogun" is far too dangerous and accurate to miss those kinds of opportunities.
If this fight becomes a stand-up fight, I believe that Rua will come out on top and prove once again how dangerous Muay Thai can be. Setting up leg kicks will also be key as those strikes open up straight punches and even "Superman" punches.
Rua's raw aggression and killer instinct may just be the key component to winning this fight if his crisp Muay Thai skills prove to get the better of the challenger.
Let's hear your breakdown of the UFC 128 main event title fight.