Forrest Griffin, not Lyoto Machida, will be Mauricio “Shogun” Rua’s opponent at UFC 76 according to reports. The news contradicts numerous previous reports that suggested Machida would be facing the top light heavyweight.
Rua is 16-2 in his mixed martial arts career but has yet to fight in the UFC. Rua has won 4 straight fights in PRIDE over Cyrille Diabate, Kevin Randleman, Kazuhiro Nakamura, and Alistair Overeem in a span of just 6 months.
Griffin won the first season of the Ultimate Fighter over Stephan Bonnar in one of the highly acclaimed fights in UFC history. He followed up the win with two more wins over Bill Mahood and Elvis Sinosic earning a shot at former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz. Griffin lost the fight against Ortiz via split decision. Following the loss a rematch with Stephan Bonnar was next for Griffin. He won the fight by unanimous decision.
Griffin lost again in his next UFC fight against Keith Jardine at UFC 66. Griffin was slated to face the man he is now rumored to have replace, Lyoto Machida, at UFC 70 but pulled out of the fight due to a staph infection. Griffin was successful in his last UFC fight in June at UFC 72 where he defeated Hector Ramirez.
Most fans and analysts agree that a match against Machida would have likely been a greater challenge for Rua in his debut. The matchup was likely scrapped due to the fact that few casual UFC fans are familiar with Machida but Griffin on the other hand has a large following due to his time on The Ultimate Fighter. It appears the UFC opted for a more marketable fight as opposed to the superior MMA matchup.