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When Mauricio Rua signed with the UFC, he was supposed to dominate the promotion's 205-pound division much like he had in Pride Fighting Championships (Pride).
While fighting for the defunct Japanese company, he was on a tear. He was a human wrecking machine, finding victory 12 times inside the Pride ring.
While he would eventually find his way to championship gold in the UFC, his early tenure inside the Octagon was anything but smooth.
Before finding his first win in a lackluster showing against Mark Coleman, "Shogun" was pushed to the brink and choked out by the original The Ultimate Figher (TUF) winner, Forrest Griffin. Nearly four years removed from that bout, Rua was able to capture sweet revenge last night at UFC 134: "Rio."
The Brazilian helped his fellow countrymen attain a near full sweep over their foreign opponents when he shellacked Griffin in less than two minutes in the co-main event.
Now with that loss no longer eating away at him from the back of his mind, the former light heavyweight champ looks towards an slightly hazy future as no one for certain what is next for the Muay thai expert.
A list of options after the jump.
Certainly not my favorite pick but one that is definitely a viable option. The two Brazilians have squared off twice before with each getting one win over the other. Machida himself is coming off a brutal knockout win over Randy Couture and the winner of this potential bout would have a strong claim to number one contendership after Rashad Evans gets his second crack at the title.
Both prior bouts were fantastic, especially their first which was as close to a violent, human chess game as you could. So why the hesitance on my part? With such a crowded division, there are more intriguing fights that could be made before this trilogy is completed.
Another rematch but this is one has some mileage on it as opposed to the fresher Machida bouts. The two Brazilians met in the quarterfinals of the 2005 Pride grand prix and nearly tore the roof off of the Saitama Super Arena. "Shogun" earned the nod that night and went on to win the tournament.
"Lil Nog" is coming off an injury that forced him to pull out of his UFC 133 bout with Rich Franklin. While "Minotoro" asked his American opponent to wait for him to heal up so they can do the dance inside the Octagon, recent comments from "Ace" seem to indicate a return to middleweight in back in the cards for him.
If you've seen the first tilt between these two Brazilian warriors, a rematch was the first thing that popped into your mind when the final bell sounded. It was a beautiful fight, between two fighters that are not only highly skilled and tough but smart as well.
The one thing that acts as a bucket of ice water on this idea is Nogueira's resume inside the Octagon. He's coming off two losses -- to Ryan Bader and Phil Davis -- so a win over him wouldn't exactly catapult "Shogun" to clear number one contendership.
Speaking of Phil Davis and aborted UFC 133 bouts, the physical specimen could act as a potential next opponent for Rua. Slated to take on Evans last month, Davis pulled out due to an injury and has been waiting for a new opponent ever since.
Unlike Nogueira, Davis is coming off wins. In fact, his record is spotless. And while he doesn't have the name recognition of a Machida, our partners in crime Bloody Elbow peg the American as the number eight 205-pounder in the entire world.
Davis presents a definite problem for "Shogun," as would anyone with well-honed takedowns. "Mr. Wonderful's" wrestling is top-notch but the young fighter is learning and growing by leaps and bounds as evidenced by his ever-improving stand-up acumen.
Reports have come out that Davis and Machida are set to tangle, though, which obviously would put the kibosh on not only this option but the first one as well.
Loser of Jones/Jackson
"Bones" and "Rampage" have a date next month in Denver in the main event of UFC 135 and Rashad Evans has already been promised a shot at whoever walks away with 12 pounds of gold.
Rua took on Jackson in the first round of the same tournament that hosted his bout with Nogueira. In that fight, he brutalized the American, shattering ribs and bruising egos before earning the technical knockout (TKO) victory. Despite having already fought before, the years since have built up a demand for the two to clash for a second time.
The situation with Jones is slightly different. Only one bout for each fighter would separate the two from their first meeting should they find themselves in the Octagon again. "Bones" dominated their first bout and made destroying a future legend look like child's play. But I'm sure Rua would be -- much like he was last night -- searching for a measure of revenge against the young American.
What do you think, Maniacs? Who should "Shogun" take on next?