Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight sluggers Mauricio Rua and Ovince St. Preux are set to collide TONIGHT (Sat., Nov. 8, 2014) inside Ginasio Municipal Tancredo Neves in Uberlandia, Brazil.
Despite having lost three of his last four matches, Rua put on arguably the best technical performance of his recent career against Dan Henderson. He may have eventually been caught by a rogue "H-Bomb," but Rua was soundly out-striking "Hendo" prior and will look to replicate his success in the main event of UFC Fight Night 56.
In his bout against Ryan Bader, "OSP's" five-fight win streak was snapped by the powerful wrestler. Now, St. Preux will attempt to make a successful short notice return and earn the biggest win of his career against "Shogun."
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: James Te Huna (UFC Fight Night 38), Lyoto Machida (UFC 113), Forrest Griffin (UFC 134)
Key Losses: Dan Henderson (UFC Fight Night 38), Chael Sonnen (UFC Fight Night 26), Jon Jones (UFC 128)
Keys to Victory: Though years of brutal fights and injuries have taken their toll, Rua is still a very dangerous Muay Thai striker with solid ground skills. In fact, each and every one of Rua's UFC wins have come via knockout.
The fact that this is a five round fight actually favors Rua. Though his conditioning is questionable at best, the Brazilian keeps his power well past the point in which his gas tank hits empty.
For St. Preux -- who's coming in on short notice and has never shown particularly good cardio anyway -- that's bad news.
Still, while Rua would likely win a brawl with "OSP," there are easier paths to victory for him. Rua apparently has no intention of retiring anytime soon, so avoiding unnecessary damage should be a priority for him.
To safely defeat St. Preux, Rua needs to strike technically. By utilizing his jab and low kicks, Rua can soften and slow St. Preux. Then, it will be much safer for "Shogun" to wade in with a few power punches and look for his usual knockout finish.
Plus, it will be harder for St. Preux to land takedowns if Rua is planted and in the midst of sloppily throwing haymakers.
Ovince St. Preux
Key Wins: Ryan Jimmo (UFC 174), Gian Villante (UFC 159)
Key Losses: Ryan Bader (UFC Fight Night 47), Gegard Mousasi (Strikeforce: Melendez vs Masvidal)
Keys to Victory: One of the most athletic fighters in the light heavyweight division, St. Preux has been able to manhandle his way into the top ten. Though he's no technical master, his physical gifts have led him to seven knockout victories in his career.
In this bout, St. Preux has two possible routes to victory. He can attempt to knockout Rua early, or he can look to take down and control the Brazilian for the majority of five rounds.
Though Rua's no longer impossible to knockout, his combination of a sturdy jaw and undeniable toughness has allowed him to endure harder shots from better strikers than St. Preux. It wouldn't be impossible for him to finish Rua, but it doesn't seem very likely either.
Plus, "Shogun" is not going to just sit there and let St. Preux knock him out.
Instead, "OSP" should look to wrestle Rua. The Brazilian may have legitimate jiu-jitsu skills, but his single submission victory shouldn't scare away St. Preux. In addition, St. Preux could eliminate his conditioning problem if he gives himself ample time to rest when on top of Rua.
Not only is this a safer game plan for St. Preux, but it could still lead to a finish of "Shogun." If St. Preux weighs heavily on Rua early on, the Brazilian will be very tired late. Then, if "OSP" gains a dominant position late, he can attempt to earn and stoppage from continuous ground strikes.
Bottom Line: Though neither man is likely to contend for the title anytime soon, this bout will determine the direction each fighter is likely to head in the near future.
With a win, Rua will maintain his status near the bottom of the top 10. Since the division is seemingly without prospects, Rua will likely be able to keep this position for some time.
A loss, however, would signal the end of "Shogun" as a Top 10-ranked fighter. "OSP" has yet to defeat a ranked opponent, mainly because his overall mixed martial arts (MMA) game is really not that impressive. Should Rua lose, it will likely be followed by several disappointing losses.
For St. Preux, a win would obviously be huge, especially if he showcases improvement. He's still fairly young -- and clearly has the physical tools to be elite -- so a dominant win that includes some type of technical development could recover some of the momentum "OSP" lost in his bout with Bader.
On the other hand, a loss would be the third indication of St. Preux's ceiling. Each time he's stepped up in competition, St. Preux managed to lose a dreadful decision. "OSP" will likely continue to be a couple wins from a big opportunity because of the shallow nature of light heavyweight, but it will get harder each time to get fans excited about it.
At UFC Fight Night 56, "Shogun" Rua and Ovince St. Preux will attempt to stay relevant in the light heavyweight division. Which man will earn the victory?