In 2007, when Pride folded into the origami shape for failure, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua took his 16-2 record to the UFC, where he was expected to beat his chest atop a pile of corpses. Instead, he was thoroughly battered by Forrest Griffin and barely eked out a win against a man fifteen years his senior in Mark Coleman. Knocking out Chuck Liddell, the new statistical norm for that fighter, resulted in confidence that the “old ‘Shogun’” had returned. It also resulted in a title shot. Not exactly a walk through the gates of fire, but okay.
I remain skeptical, mostly because “old ‘Shogun’” is a nightmare of punctuation and I loathe typing it, but also because he’s looked good for roughly five minutes out of a 35-minute UFC career. Oddsmakers believe he has only a 33% chance of defeating Lyoto Machida, whose base style of karate should have given him only a .005% chance of success in the sport. So maybe odds aren’t everything.
What: UFC 104: Machida vs. ‘Shogun,’ an 11-bout card from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif.
When: Saturday, Oct. 24, at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view, with a live preliminary show airing on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET.
Why You Should Care: Because Machida is the closest thing we’ve got to a profound, peerless martial artist; because whether “Shogun” has found his old form or not, he will make it exciting; because Ben Rothwell is going to force Cain Velasquez to scramble and work like hell to overcome his size; because judo remains an under-represented style in MMA and Yoshiyuki Yoshida can counter Anthony Johnson’s stand-up with the highly technical ploy of dumping him on his head.
Fight of the Night: Machida’s unblemished record raises stakes for every second he’s in the ring; “Shogun” will stay in his face.
Sleeper Fight of the Night: Joe Stevenson vs. Spencer Fisher: three rounds of Fisher getting scooped up and then working overtime on the feet to compensate.
Pre-emptive Complaint: Chael Sonnen vs. Yushin Okami might be a concentrated effort to keep blood pressure among viewers steady; Okami, talented as he is, makes Ricardo Arona look like Jet Li.
Hype Quote of the Show: “I just saw what he wrote about me and I am going to punch him in the face for that, plain and simple.” -- Fisher on Stevenson’s verbal warfare. At least he’s not in Fisher’s head.