'Shogun' and Griffin have their own score to settle. | Photo: Sherdog.com
Forrest Griffin (18-6, 9-4 UFC) The Matchup: Their first encounter remains one of the sport’s all-time classic upsets. With Rua migrating over from Pride and Griffin still viewed as a young buck thrown into deep water, “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 1 winner shocked the world with a blood-and-guts showing and submitted “Shogun” in a thriller at UFC 76.
Since then, Rua has shown flashes of his Pride-era brilliance, as he took out Lyoto Machida in the rematch of their excellent first bout and captured the UFC light heavyweight crown in the process. However, his reign was short-lived, as he surrendered the belt to Jon Jones in a one-sided drubbing at UFC 128 in March.
Griffin’s return in February -- he won a decision against Rich Franklin at UFC 126 -- came on the heels of a 14-month absence while recovering from injury. He looked relatively sharp considering he layoff. As always, Griffin relies on conditioning, workrate and an underrated jiu-jitsu game to wear down opponents.
Looking at the Jones defeat, it was not as much a product of Shogun’s mileage as it was the fact that he simply faced an amazing talent. Jones also smashed him with a flying knee that would have knocked out many fighters in the opening moments of the bout. Yet, Rua soldiered on and took a one-sided beating.
For Rua to get his home-field revenge, he has to deny Griffin’s takedowns and suck him into a striking match, where the Brazilian’s edge in power and technique will serve him well. Griffin’s best chance lies in making the rematch exactly like the first fight: a down-and-dirty gut-check through which he can wear out Rua while breaking his will to fight.
This is a key crossroads match in the light heavyweight division. Griffin will use volume and busy combinations to outpoint foes and set up clinches, but if Rua was able to defuse Machida’s puzzling attacks, he should be able to counterstrike and bang his opponent here. Look for some rousing back-and-forth action, as this one does not figure to go to the ground early.
The Pick: Rua wins the exchanges, forcing Griffin to change tactics and try to take it to the ground. He will get picked apart and countered over three rounds en route to Rua winning a unanimous decision in a solid fight.
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