James Te Huna (16-6, 5-2 UFC) vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, at UFC Fight Night 33
Another local talent on tap for this light heavyweight co-main event featuring on the bubble Kiwi/Aussie Te Huna taking on longtime veteran and top 10 LHW Shogun Rua. With Lyoto Machida’s move to 185 lbs and Shogun ranked by the UFC at #9 a place in the top 10 could very well be up for grabs for the winner. Will Te Huna officially arrive or will Shogun hang onto his spot?
Prior to joining the UFC in 2010 Te Huna was considered the top 205 lb fighter in Australia and made it known from the beginning that he was after a spot on the UFC roster. He looked up to then champion Tito Ortiz as a younger fighter and now finds himself on the brink of make a serious run towards the real big fights. In order for him to do that he will need to expand on his strengths and minimize any weaknesses, here’s a rundown of both:
-Te Huna started as a teen in a boxing gym in his native New Zealand and even had a few amateur fights. That set the stage for the very heavy hands and aggressive boxing game that he now brings to the cage. Te Huna puts a ton of power into almost every punch and looks to either KO or totally overwhelm opponents. He moves forward stalking his foe and likes to punch his way in close and to the cage where he can work some dirty boxing.
-Equally important as his actual boxing is the physicality that he combines it with. Aware of the fact that this is MMA and not boxing Te Huna takes the intensity of his punches up several notches along with every other aspect of his game. He puts power and bad intentions into every punch, knee, clinch, and takedown.
-With Australia and New Zealand not being particularly well known for great wrestling, James somehow manages to make his wrestling a serviceable tool. Te Huna’s grappling overall and takedown defense in particular have been very helpful in fights with Joey Beltran and Ryan Jimmo.
-Up to this point in Te Huna’s career their remains a few specific weaknesses that will need to be addresses:
-As is often the case with physically impressive fighters like James, they struggle against foes who can match their physicality and surpass them on technique, Alexander Gustafsson and Glover Teixeira are perfect examples and the only 2 fighters to beat him in the UFC. This is something that should improve as Te Huna progresses further.
-Also dangerous for Te Huna is he seems to believe that the best defense is his strong offense and as a result he has been a little too susceptible to power punches. His chin gets him by but at 32 years old James is likely in his prime and should not endanger it by absorbing unnecessary punishment. I would also like to see proof that his submission defense has improved with 4 of his 6 losses coming to arm bar or chokes.
Shogun Rua has been a top LHW since the beginning of his MMA career back in 2002. Once a top member of the terrifying chute boxe team coming out of Curitiba Brazil, Shogun has simmered down a bit since his days in PRIDE but is still a top talent. And by the way, for those of you who have only seen the UFC version of Shogun, please take a look at Shogun’s PRIDE highlights, you’re welcome. If Shogun is to maintain his current standing in the top 10 he must use the following:
-Shogun’s Muay Thai has always been his most devastating weapon. His very strong leg kicks, great hands, and brutal clinch game has broken more than 1 rib or nose (looking at you Rampage). He was often referred to as Wanderlei 2.0 back when Silva was still wrecking people, that’s how scary Shogun was. He still has the same skills they are just contained in an older, slightly slowed down, body.
-BJJ and even judo have also been a big parts of Shogun’s game. Despite having only 1 official submission win on his record he is a true BJJ black belt under Nino Schembri. Good takedowns and top notch positioning skills have played the bigger role in his application of BJJ and judo than submissions have and they’ve allowed him to be in the right spot to pound out GnP wins over several tough opponents.
Shogun’s weak points have been exposed a few times throughout his career and most of his defeats have been due to:
-Being outworked has always been a problem for Shogun and if you look at his losses almost all of them has been to fighters who set an incredible pace and eventually tired him out. He is a big guy and has had quite a few serious injuries which certainly have not helped any.
-The significance of injuries and the toll they have taken on Shogun’s conditioning would be hard to overstate. A broken arm (thanks Coleman) and several knee injuries/surgeries effectively ended the younger more explosive version of Shogun and years worth of gym wars at the infamously brutal Chute Boxe Academy eventually caught up to him.
When this fight was announced the bookies had Shogun a slight favorite. But now the favor has shifted towards Te Huna which I think is fair. Shogun is on the first 2 fight skid of his career and unless he’s completely shot I’d be shocked if he lost a third in a row. BUT! Te Huna is such a friggin beast! Tough fight to pick but I’m picking Shogun for 1 last glory in the cage, by submission or TKO.