Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweights Mauricio Rua and James Te Huna will go to war in the co-main event of this Friday night's (Dec. 6, 2013) UFC Fight Night 33 event from Brisbane Entertainment Centre in Queensland, Australia.
The former UFC 205-pound champion is going through the roughest stretch of his illustrious mixed martial arts (MMA) career, as Rua was last seen being submitted in the first round against Chael Sonnen at August's UFC Fight Night 26. The Muay Thai expert has dropped three out of his last four UFC bouts, losing to contenders Dan Henderson and Alexander Gustafsson prior to his bout against Sonnen.
His only win in the last two years was over Brandon Vera at UFC on FOX 4.
He'll look to get back on track against the heavy-handed Te Huna. While Te Huna may not be a household name, that doesn't make him any less dangerous. He's won five out of seven total UFC bouts. His only losses were to Glover Teixeira at UFC 160 and Gustafsson at UFC 127.
The New Zealand-born power puncher is still looking for a true statement win to propel his name onto the 205-pound rankings. He'll get that chance against Rua, who has promised this fight will be an exciting one.
There's a statement that isn't hard to believe. Both Rua and Te Huna love to throw heavy leather and put on a show for the fans. Their bout at UFC Fight Night 33 should be no different. It would be quite the surprise to see this one go to the judges' scorecards.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Mauricio Rua vs. James Te Huna:
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua
Record: 21-8 overall, 5-6 UFC
Key Losses: Jon Jones (UFC 128), Lyoto Machida (UFC 104), Forrest Griffin (UFC 76), Chael Sonnen (UFC Fight Night 26)
Keys to Victory: At this point it's no secret that 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix winner Rua comes into his fights looking to knock his opponents' blocks off. He gets the job done with a lethal Muay Thai game that incorporates some of the most devastating kicks in all of MMA.
He also possesses an iron chin that was fully on display in his UFC 139 classic against Henderson. "Shogun" ate countless "H-bombs" but never stopped coming forward, even mounting an exhausted Henderson in the later rounds. He may have lost that fight, but his toughness will go down in history.
And he's going to need it against Te Huna.
"Shogun" has been training extensively with admired boxing coach Freddie Roach. It's apparently taken his striking to a new level, and "Shogun" appears motivated to show off that skill set at UFC Fight Night 33. However, that isn't necessarily his best course of action.
Te Huna is the owner of 10 knockout victories throughout his career, including three in UFC. His power is top-notch, but the same can hardly be said about his grappling. For that reason, "Shogun" should look to use his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and lock Te Huna up in a devastating finishing hold.
Rua is known for having great leglocks despite preferring to primarily let his fists and feet do the talking. Te Huna has been submitted five times, but he's never been knocked out.
"Shogun" would be well served to get this fight onto the ground as fast as possible and neutralize Te Huna's main strength. That most likely won't happen because Rua is focused on entertaining his fans. Rua has a decent chance to win a brawl, but he has a much better one if the fight hits the canvas at some point.
James Te Huna
Record: 16-6 overall, 5-2 UFC
Key Losses: Glover Teixeira (UFC 160), Alexander Gustafsson (UFC 127)
Keys to Victory: Te Huna is a crushing power striker with toughness to match. He stalks opponents down with ruthless efficiency. Prior to his loss to Teixeira, Te Huna had racked up four straight victories inside the Octagon.
He couldn't capitalize on the opportunity against Teixeira. He has the chance to redeem himself against another big name in Brisbane.
To come out on top, Te Huna has to stay on his toes. Lumbering forward on flat feet will put him in harm's way against a talented striker like Rua. Te Huna needs to keep his movement level high and mix up his strikes rather than looking for a home-run punch.
Rua hasn't exactly exhibited the best takedown defense as of late, but Te Huna won't be attempting too many. Te Huna's only submission wins were three rear-naked choke victories back when he started fighting in 2004.
Te Huna will be focused on becoming only the third fighter to stop "Shogun" via strikes.
There's not much to speculate about when it comes to Te Huna's gameplan. He'll be excited to get in there and mix it up with "Shogun" from the opening bell. Te Huna will also have the full support of the Australian crowd behind him. He needs to maintain his mental focus and keep his emotions in check if he wants to record the biggest win of his career.
Te Huna also needs to show up with improved submission defense. He hasn't lost a fight via knockout or decision, only by submission and disqualification. "Shogun" absolutely has the skills to end Te Huna's night via tapout, so the New Zealander needs to stay one step ahead of Rua on the ground.
But this fight might not even go there. If it doesn't, Te Huna has an exponentially higher chance of winning.
Bottom Line from Brisbane: The bottom line for this fight is that it's probably going to be a slugfest. That's no surprise given the vicious knockout power of both Rua and Te Huna. "Shogun" could easily dominate this fight on the mat if he wanted to, but all signs have been pointing to him engaging Te Huna in a stand-up war.
That will keep the fans engrossed in Brisbane, but it might not be the best course of action for Rua's career. He has a stellar track record, but in today's ever-evolving fight game, he is in dire need of a win.
A loss will be devastating for Rua. Losing four out of five bouts usually spells doom for most UFC fighters. While "Shogun" has probably bought himself more time thanks to the exciting wars he's participated in over the years, people will still be clamoring for his retirement should Te Huna dominate him.
He may have no choice.
Te Huna can earn a huge boost to his own standing by knocking off the former champion. He has the striking skills to impress in his home country. Te Huna's endurance and durability will pay big dividends when he starts exchanging shots with "Shogun." It's going to come down to whose striking is the sharpest here. This fight has the potential to be a war that will probably end in brutal fashion. Will Te Huna signify the beginning of the end for "Shogun?"
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and James Te Huna will throw down in a pivotal bout that has "Fight of the Night" written all over it. Let us know your predictions below!