The Career of PRIDE & UFC legend Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua
Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua was for a time the most feared mixed martial arts fighter on the planet, and for a good reason.
Rua began his mixed martial arts career in November of 2002 following a 10-0 run in Muay Thai competition, where he’d quickly rack up three-straight knockout victories en route to entering the IFC light-heavyweight tournament in 2003. Following another knockout victory in the opening round of the tournament, ‘Shogun’ was then defeated by RINGS and UFC veteran Renato Sobral, who submitted (guillotine choke) him in round three of their semifinal matchup.
Sobral was 22-6 going into this fight, making him seven-times the more experienced party.
‘Shogun’ would then make his debut under the PRIDE banner with a 4-1 record at the end of 2003 and would win his next eight-straight fights over the course of two years, securing seven of them via knockout.
The latter four wins showed him victorious over the likes of future UFC light-heavyweight champion Rampage Jackson (TKO), Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (UD), future Strikeforce & DREAM heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem (TKO), and BJJ ace Ricardo Arona (KO).
Jackson was 22-5 going into their fight, ‘Lil Nog’ was 11-1, Overeem was 21-5, and Arona was 12-2.
Rua was consistently finishing dangerous, successful talents that were far more experienced than himself.
The eighth victory in this span, over Arona, saw Rua win the 2005 PRIDE middleweight gran prix championship.
‘Shogun’ then decided to move up to heavyweight for his next fight, where he’d take on former UFC heavyweight champion Mark Coleman, losing the fight via TKO after breaking his arm just 49 seconds into the contest.
Rua dropped back down to 205 lbs for his next appearance, where he went on another hot streak, this time defeating the likes of kickboxing champion Cyrille Diabate (TKO), former UFC heavyweight champion Kevin Randleman (kneebar), Japanese standout Kazuhiro Nakamura (UD), and Alistair Overeem (KO) in their rematch.
Once the UFC bought out PRIDE, ‘Shogun’ was now a UFC fighter, and many believed he should’ve gotten a title shot right out of the gate.
Instead however, the UFC decided to match him up with The Ultimate Fighter 1 winner Forrest Griffin, who to merely everyone’s surprise finished ‘Shogun’ (rear naked choke) with just 15 seconds left in the third and final round.
Griffin would go on to win the UFC light-heavyweight championship in his next fight.
‘Shogun’ rebounded with back-to-back knockout victories over the likes of Mark Coleman (TKO) in their rematch, as well as former UFC light-heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell (TKO).
Now it was time for Rua to fight for the UFC light-heavyweight championship against the newly crowned champion, 15-0 karate expert Lyoto Machida. After five rounds were completed, Machida was handed the unanimous decision victory in what quickly became one of the most controversial decisions, and biggest robberies of all-time.
Considering this horrendous outcome, an immediate rematch took place six months later, where ‘Shogun’ KO’d Machida in round one to claim the UFC title he’d been destined to win for years and years at this point.
But, his time on top was very short lived thanks to Jon Jones, perhaps the greatest MMA fighter of all-time.
Rua was a massive favorite going into this fight, merely no one was picking Jones to win.
However, the eventual outcome of this fight was evident from the first minute on, as Jones absolutely dominated Rua from start to finish, up until he stopped (TKO) the Brazilian legend midway through round three.
This was an absolute beatdown, one of the worst beatings you’ll ever see inside an MMA cage.
‘Shogun’ returned six months later at UFC 134 to avenge the defeat he suffered in his UFC debut, as he KO’d Forrest Griffin in the first round of their rematch, before being set up for a main event slot opposing former two-division PRIDE champion, and former Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion Dan Henderson.
By this point, Rua’s UFC record was 3-3, though he should have been 4-2 and he’d avenged two of those defeats.
Rua’s fight with Henderson turned into one of the greatest, most entertaining and back-and-forth battles any of us had ever seen, as the two combatants went to war for 25 minutes; Henderson winning the first, second, and third rounds, while Rua rallied to win the fourth and fifth.
Many believe ‘Shogun’ should’ve gotten a 10-8 round in either the fourth or fifth, which would’ve resulted in a draw, but they didn’t. Instead Rua lost the unanimous decision and it was back to square one once again.
From here on out, Rua’s career was incredibly back-and-forth with wins and losses, just as it already had been in recent memory.
‘Shogun’ shared another main event slot in his next outing, this one over fellow BJJ black belt, fellow elite Muay Thai striker, and former WEC heavyweight champion Brandon Vera, who he TKO’d in round four of their epic war.
Those two fights were just insane; Rua vs Henderson and Rua vs Vera.
If you haven’t seen them, we strongly suggest you go back and give them a watch, because they were just incredible showcases of violence at a high level.
A pair of back-to-back defeats would soon follow to the likes of future multi-time title challengers Alexander Gustafsson (UD) and Chael Sonnen (guillotine choke), before he’d brutally KO fellow knockout artist James Te Huna.
This was one of those knockouts where you genuinely wondered if the man that suffered the knockout was dead.
But, back-to-back defeats came once again over his next two outings, as he was once again defeated by Dan Henderson (TKO), and then Ovince Saint Preux (KO). He was looking great early on in the Henderson rematch, picking his fellow legend apart with ease.
But that power Henderson possesses was evident in round three, where he stopped ‘Shogun’ this time around.
At this point we all thought ‘Shogun’ was done, and after going 3-6 over his last nine and 6-8 over his last 14, there was reason to think that.
However, Rua was able to turn the clock back for a short period in time, where he’d go 5-1-1 over his next seven.
This included victories over the likes of ‘Lil Nog’ (UD) in their rematch, Corey Anderson (SD), who boasts wins over former champions Jan Blachowicz, Glover Teixeira, and Ryan Bader, Gian Villante (TKO), Tyson Pedro (TKO), and ‘Lil Nog’ (SD) again in their trilogy.
The lone defeat in this time came to Anthony Smith (KO), and the draw to Paul Craig.
These weren’t exactly vintage ‘Shogun’ performances, but he surprised all of us with the success he had from 2015 to 2020.
But, that would be the end of his success inside the cage, as he’d go out on a three-fight skid, losing to the likes of Paul Craig (TKO) and Ovince Saint Preux (SD) in their respective rematches, as well as Ihor Potieria (TKO) last month at UFC 283 where he retired from the sport following the contest.
Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua was just 29 years of age at the time he lost to Jon Jones. Going into that fight, many of us believed he’d have at least three more prime years in him. But, that fight was a perfect example of how some fights can just change fighters.
Click here to see Fights That Changed Fighters: Part II
Yes, ‘Shogun’ did go on to have more success, even in some real wars such as the Brandon Vera and Tyson Pedro fights, but father time remains undefeated, as it takes one more legend from us at the start of this new year.
Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua is one of the most feared, violent knockout artists of all-time, especially at the time he fought in PRIDE and was allowed to use kicks and knees to the head of downed opponents.
At the time he had 22 wins, 19 of them came via knockout, which is just insane. That’s a Conor McGregor-like ratio. Upon retirement, his record boasts 27 wins with 21 of them coming via knockout.
What’s more, Rua defeated nine different world champions throughout his career, and knocked out countless knockout artists, including three professional kickboxers such as Alistair Overeem (11-4 in kickboxing), Cyrille Diabate (41-8-2 in kickboxing), and Chuck Liddell (20-2 in kickboxing).
Mauricio Rua Career Accomplishments:
- BJJ black belt
- Muay Thai black belt
- PRIDE middleweight gran prix champion (2005)
- UFC light-heavyweight champion
- Eight-time post-fight bonus winner (tied with Jon Jones, Glover Teixeira, and Ovince Saint Preux)
- Fight of the Year (2005, vs Antonio Rogerio Nogueira)
- Fight of the Year (2011, vs Dan Henderson)
- Knockout of the Year (2010, vs Lyoto Machida)
- UFC Hall of Fame Inductee (class of 2018)
- Retired in 2022 at age 41 with a record of 27-14-1
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I became a fan of combat sports when I was 12 years old. I was scrolling through the channels and landed upon versus, where WEC was televised. Urijah Faber fought Jens Pulver for the second time that night. That’s the first fight I saw, and the fight that got me hooked on the sport. Since then, the sport has grown so rapidly, and my goal is to enlighten everyone on what’s going on in the sport today.