(Mike Mastrandrea for FIGHT!)
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua reminded everyone what fighting fans and critics suggested in 2005 by seizing the UFC’s 205-pound belt from Lyoto Machida at UFC 113 at 3:35 of round one this weekend: Rua is the perfect fighter.
A Chute Boxe prodigy in 2005, Rua’s youth and technical proficiency created a hyper-violent package that set the bar for the modern MMA fighter after finishing three—Quinton Jackson, Alistair Overeem and Ricardo Arona—of four fighters (he battled Antonio Rogerio Nogueria in a classic decision win) he faced in PRIDE’s Middleweight Grand Prix tournament. But in mixed martial arts, the rising, untouchable superstar is a myth outside of Fedor Emelianenko. The next three years found Shogun wandering away from the standard he set with injuries, losses and uninspired showings until he crossed paths with Machida.
Losses help define a mixed martial artist, and Shogun’s defeats in the UFC pushed him to mature as an athlete both physically and mentally, intersecting with the brilliance he brought to PRIDE’s ring in 2005 inside the Octagon in 2010 by handing Machida his first loss in 17 fights with his trademark aggression.
The winner of Rashad Evans and Quinton Jackson’s clash two weeks from now will likely challenge the division’s new king. Should he get past his first title defense, a Rua-Anderson Silva superfight should supercede all divisional responsibilities. As UFC President Dana White constantly reassures fans, the UFC puts on fans fights want to see and Rua-Silva is one.
For Machida, his era will be defined by how he rebounds from the lone blemish on his record. Forrest Griffin would force the former champion to address another aggressive fighter with chopping leg kicks.
‘Semtex’ Explodes Out of UFC
Josh Koscheck’s three round domination of Paul Daley earned “Kos” a title shot against Georges St-Pierre and a spot opposite the 170-pound king on the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter. But that is being overshadowed by the punch the frustrated Brit threw well after the final bell, which prompted an immediately dismissal from the UFC at the hands of Dana White. It’s a shame the rising star is cut from the UFC as he’s had a nightmare of finding a home organization worthy of his talents throughout his career. But negative actions have negative consequences and his discipline is lacking. In this case, his dismissal is a tough one but justifiable one.
With Strikeforce currently dealing with the Mayhem vs. Team Cesar Gracie debacle, it’s difficult to sign Daley without raising eyebrows, despite the fact that current welterweight champion Nick Diaz desperately needs the competition.
It’s unlikely Daley would fight his teammate Jim Wallhead, which could be mandated by Bellator’s tournament format, so the former Cage Rage champion is likely back on the regional circuit or headed to Japan.
Back on the Koscheck front, the Pennsylvania-native did his best “Ravishing” Rick Rude impression by taunting the Montreal crowd after a sound performance, drawing the kind of heat that plays incredibly well off St-Pierre’s suit-and-tie persona. By backing into the cage repeatedly and suckering Daley into takedowns for 15 minutes in an emotional contest, Koscheck showcased the discipline that he’s lacked in the past.
An evolved version of the fighter GSP dominated in 2007, Koscheck has the powerful strikes, submission savvy, and most importantly, the wrestling credentials, to hang with St-Pierre in a rematch.
Thanks for the Memories, Kimbo
Grit and character isn’t enough to succeed at the top levels of the fight game. Kimbo Slice’s rags to riches story is great and despite the constant circus surrounding him, the former street fighter mostly conducted himself as a professional, but there are too many factors working against the 36-year-old. For some reason I smell Kimbo Slice versus Ken Shamrock in Shine Fights or another upstart organization or an end to Slice’s pugilistic endeavors altogether. The man who ended Slice’s current UFC tenure, Mitrione, should mix it up with Antoni Hardonk next.
Belcher Not Blowing Smoke
Before Nate Marquardt, people were dismissing Chael Sonnen’s title aspirations. Alan Belcher challenged Anderson Silva after his win over former title challenger Patrick Cote and he’s got a case. The UFC deemed the Canadian worthy of a shot at the title and 185-pounds is wide open. A fight with “The Great” Marquardt would clarify Belcher’s spot among the elite.
Cote versus Joe Doerksen would give him a chance to avenge a 2005 loss and “El Dirte,” who upset fan favorite Tom Lawlor earlier in the night as a late replacement, could continue rebuilding his UFC career.