File Photo: Sherdog.com
When given a second chance, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua left little to debate with his first-round knockout of Lyoto Machida in their light heavyweight rematch at UFC 113 Saturday at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
After falling short in a highly controversial five-round decision loss to Machida at UFC 104 last September in Los Angeles, Rua delivered a tour-de-force performance against his elusive Brazilian brethren, clipping the 205-pound champion with an overhand right three minutes into the first round that sent the champion to the canvas.
“When I connected with the overhand right punch standing up, I already noticed that he was going out, and then I took the opportunity to keep punching him on the ground until the referee would stop it,” said Rua, who actually stopped punching before the official intervened.
The 28-year-old Rua, who won Pride Fighting Championships’ ultra-competitive middleweight grand prix in 2005, didn’t dwell on his loss to Machida last fall, though the unanimous decision handed down by three judges, who all scored the rounds differently, caused outrage in the MMA community.
“I tried not to think about my first fight and all the controversy that there was in the first fight just served as motivation,” said Rua. “For this fight, I knew him better, so I tried to exploit him and to take more risk, take chances and go to finish the fight.”
Rua said he studied the first fight to find holes in the previously impenetrable Machida’s game.
“I noticed that every time he would try to attack on the timing of my kicks, he was attacking, but without his guard in proper place with his face exposed,” said Rua, “so that’s why I worked a lot this time, not only on the kicks, but also for (the) overhand right punch to surprise him when he was trying to move in for my kicks.”
Saturday’s victory serves as vindication for the October loss and Rua’s slow start in the promotion. Rua was dominated and submitted in the third round of his underwhelming Octagon debut by “Ultimate Fighter” upstart Forrest Griffin at UFC 76 in September 2007. Though he won his next bout to aging former UFC champion Mark Coleman at UFC 93 in January 2009, Rua’s uninspiring performance didn’t hold a candle to his stellar run through Japan’s then vibrant fighting circuit in 2004-2006. That run included wins over former UFC champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and current 205-pound contender Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
The Brazilian fighter said two consecutive knee surgeries about three years ago were difficult to rebound from, and also dismissed last-minute reports Saturday that his knee was still bothering him.
“That was very tough and people were criticizing a lot, but I took that as motivation because I worked so hard, that when I (was) going through that type of criticism, I tried to think that somebody has to pay the bill,” said Rua. “Somebody has to pay for what I’m going through, so I tried to do that in my fights and pay back when I’m fighting.”
UFC President Dana White said he was thoroughly bowled over by Rua’s performance on Saturday.
“Sometime there’s only that one opportunity in a fight to end (it) and some of these guys take it and go after it,” said White. “Shogun is the man. Beating a guy like Machida the way he did in the first round, I don’t even know the word to explain that. That’s awesome.”