UFC Fight Night 26, which takes place at TD Bank Garden in Boston, Mass., tonight (Sat., Aug. 17, 2013), features a Light Heavyweight mixed martial arts (MMA) main event between Mauricio Rua and Chael Sonnen.
Rua's decline in since losing his belt to Jon Jones in 2011 has been glaringly obvious, but his firepower, big-time chin and basic offensive tools have carried him in some credible efforts. For Sonnen, in the wake of Chris Weidman's win over Anderson Silva at UFC 162 last month, this is a springboard-like opportunity to score a win over an ex-champion in a weight division above where he should be competing.
Both are aggressive fighters and look to impose their wills.
The delicious contrast in styles behind those wills means this is an ideal main even with which to kick off the arrival of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) on FOX Sports 1. Sonnen will be hard-pressed to compete on the feet in a striking match, while Rua will quite likely be ground down and run out of gas if he's sucked in a grinding, grappling-heavy fight.
Check out a complete breakdown of the UFC Fight Night 26 main event between Mauricio Rua vs. Chael Sonnen below:
Sonnen's stand up is very underrated, as he uses it well enough to close the distance and give foes something to think about before tying up and going about his business, which is wrestling-heavy and constantly pushing the pace. Shogun's gas tank in recent fights has shown all the signs of an aging fighter, as he'll uncork solid combinations in bursts and then take long stretches recovering.
The bridge between striking and groundfighting is often the clinch, and this is where Shogun's natural size advantage might be enough to open up opportunities. He has a nasty clinch, and don't expect Sonnen's first opportunity to tie up will necessarily result in Shogun being bullied around, as Rua is really good at uncorking knees and in-close strikes.
A big factor in Sonnen's favor is this being a five-rounder. It means he doesn't necessarily have to come out like gangbusters and win the first round ... or even the second. He can gauge the range, pick his spots to tie up Rua and run him out of gas with clinching, shifting and constant takedown attempts.
For Rua, unloading big shots early will be key to getting Sonnen to switch gears and press to take the momentum back. However, on the mat, don't necessarily expect Sonnen to overwhelm Rua, whose ground game from his back -- especially with sweeps and submissions -- is outstanding. It figures to be a rollicking back-and-forth battle with both men making subtle adjustments.
On paper this one look to belong to Sonnen, especially with Rua's obvious decline in recent years. However, Sonnen is facing a guy who is outstanding when people come right at him. Going to Rua and trying to bully and take him down immunizes a lot of the holes in his game, while maximizing his strengths, which remain big-time power, chin and the ability to come out on top in fearsome exchanges.
Look for Sonnen to start tactical and eye tie-up opportunities, while Shogun counters and tries to work his hands and circle. At some points, someone gets nailed, which is when the patience goes out of the window for both men as it did in Shogun's epic brawl with Dan Henderson.
Shogun will be taken down a few times and dinged up, but his size and ability to make Sonnen eat shots and expend energy will tire out Sonnen, who won't be able to keep him on the ground -- or score enough on the feet -- to merit the price he pays. Rua will eventually force enough exchanges over the second half of the bout to drop Sonnen, scoring a fourth-round knockout.
Shogun via knockout
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 26 card this weekend, starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised under card bouts at 6 p.m. ET and then the main card action, which is slated to begin at 8 p.m. ET.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst