Fights That Define A Career: Mauricio Shogun vs Ricardo Arona

August 6, 2013

MMA

Shogun Gono

Mauricio Rua (Left), in the midst of an aggressive assault to stop Akihiro Gono at PRIDE Bushido 2. Photo Credit to Susumu Nagao

For most men in their profession, it will take years and years of practice, training, work, and effort to climb the ranks in the corporate world, the sporting world, and even in everyday life as far as how respected you are by your peers.  Occasionally, someone will step onto the scene, and before you can finish wondering how you pronounce his name, he is already at the top of his craft.  Mauricio Rua, then billed in the PRIDE organization as Mauricio Shogun, is one of those special cases.  Debuting in 2003 at the age of 21, there was definitely a lot of attention around the man who we thought of as “Ninja’s little brother.”  With dominating one round TKO wins over “Mr. PRIDE” Akira Shoji, Akihiro Gono, and Yasuhito Namekawa all under the Bushido banner, he graduated to the main show at PRIDE 29 in 2005 against the tough Hiromitsu Kanehara, who recently went the distance with MMA’s feared kicker Mirko Cro Cop.  Shogun needed a big statement in that fight to prove to the PRIDE brass that he deserved a spot at that years Grand Prix in the middleweight division.  Well, seamlessly dominating and putting away a man who Cro Cop struggled with will do that, as his array of flying stomps, soccer kicks, and knees were on display.  This was the first time in PRIDE that both the Rua Brothers were on the same card, and older brother Murilo Ninja Rua fought Quinton Rampage Jackson.  What was assumed would be guaranteed fireworks disappointingly turned into a slow paced fight with both men coming in at less than their best.  But even more disappointing was the decision; everyone saw and felt that Ninja led the scorecards on damage, standing combinations and ground control, attempts to finish, and aggression, yet to the dismay of the  crowd, fans, and announcers, Rampage was inexplicably given a decision victory.  Rampage himself was not happy that he won and offered to give the winners trophy to Ninja.  Why is this important?  Due to the perceived robbery of Ninja, little bro Shogun stepped into the ring to challenge Rampage, and they would meet in the first round of the 2005 Grand Prix.

The match with Shogun and Rampage was met with excitement throughout the MMA community, a fight that would prove one of two things: was Shogun the real deal, and is Jackson back on point from the brutal loss to Wanderlei Silva late in the prior year.  The former was emphatically reassured as Shogun tore through rampage in 5 minutes, stopping him with knees to the body and an aggressive attack that would become the Shogun staple in PRIDE.   In the 2nd round, he was matched up with fellow younger brother of a PRIDE star in Antonio Rogerio Noguiera (younger twin of former Heavyweight Champion Antonio Rodrigo), and the two engaged in one of the best fights in MMA history to this day, with Shogun coming out the victor in what can best be described as a battle of wills that displayed every aspect of MMA at its top level, something rarely seen back in 2005.  This led Shogun onto the finals, where in the first fight of the night, he survived getting rocked and nearly submitted early by Alistair Overeem, before he was able to turn the tables, get the mount, and pound The Demolition Man out for a TKO victory, matching him up with Ricardo Arona, a grappling wizard who took out his teammate and PRIDE Middleweight Champion Wanderlei Silva in the prior fight.

Quick recap on Arona: He is one of PRIDE’s most one dimensional and predictable fighters.  He had a sloppy standup game, that was somehow oddly effective, but he had one goal in mind.  Take you down, out grapple you, and control you from the top.  While he had the submission prowess, his game clearly valued position over submission.  Problem was, very few people could stop Arona from doing what he wanted.  To this point, he had one lone PRIDE loss, a fight against Quinton Jackson in which the famous, highlight reel slam that we have all seen by now put Arona in an unconscious stupor, although he still protests a headbutt caused the KO, not the slam itself.  But wins over Dan Henderson, Ninja, Kazushi Sakuraba, and Dean Lister, all 4 of them high quality MMA grapplers, all 4 of them Sakuraba just blew out of the water when it came to the mat.

3 Reasons Why This Is A Career Defining Fight

1: Shogun out-grappled Arona.  And, frankly, in a way that even Lister (then ADCC Absolute Champ) and Sakuraba could not even come close to doing.  Early in the fight, Shogun was taken down but locked in a deep deep omoplata shoulder lock on Arona, forcing him to sacrifice his positioning to survive the submission.  That is something that we never have seen Arona have to do in PRIDE.  Later on in the fight, after lighting Arona up on the feet, Shogun surprised everyone, including Arona, and took him down.  Even more surprising, he completely sliced through the guard of Arona like it wasn’t even a threat.  Quick pass to half, easy pass to the cross side, and mounted him like it was a purple belt vs a 2nd day white belt.  Shogun made it look as if Arona had no clue on the mat, and that alone is something that is still jaw dropping to many MMA fans.

Shogun-vs-Arona

Shogun (Top) rains down the hammer to finish off Arona and claim the PRIDE 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix tournament championship. Photo Credit to Susumu Nagao

2: Revenge for Silva (and Sakuraba).  As stated earlier, Silva lost in the prior fight to Arona, thus guaranteeing a new Middleweight Tournament Champion, as Silva  won the previous tournament in 2003.  Silva came into the fight representing Sakuraba, who lost to Arona in the previous round.  Silva entered wearing the Hat and Belt of his new training partner as Sakuraba had come out to Brazil to train at Chute Boxe.  Arona once again showed his grappling dominance over Silva by blanketing him for 15 minutes, allowing Silva to pose 0 offense the entire fight.  The respect factor between Silva and Shogun is about as high as you will ever see 2 (then) teammates respect each other.  Wanderlei himself has stated that the only fighter he will never fight is Shogun, and you can see why as I will address that in my final point.

3: At 23, Shogun became the Middleweight Grand Prix Champion, and became recognized as the best 205lbs fighter in the world.  With future Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell currently ruling the UFC Lightheavyweight division, and Wanderlei Silva still the PRIDE Middleweight Champion (tournament fights are non-title fights as pertaining to the undisputed championship, the Grand Prix is its own separate title), the young gun of the group was now the best.  Completely running through Arona with knees, punches, and his surprising grappling domination, it all culminated with a missed stomp followed by 4 hammerfists from hell.  Arona was out on the first hammerfist alone.  The celebration of the Cute Boxe members jumping over the ropes, swarming Shogun, lifting him on their shoulders, all capitalized with Wanderlei Silva’s genuine happiness to see his friend, training partner, and oddly enough, potential title challenger take over his spot as the number 1 fighter in the weight class was a special moment.  At this moment, Shogun was only on top of his teammates shoulders, but realistically on top of the mixed martial arts world.

From that point on, Shoguns career was marred with inconsistency.  Injuries, questionable training methods, and flat performances sandwhiched by vintage Knockouts and a UFC title against the man who was viewed as unbeatable in Lyoto Machida.  Yet, for every solid KO, there are those fights that make us talk about “Well, PRIDE Shogun would have blown Vera out of the water,” or “PRIDE Shogun wouldn’t have been beaten up like that by Hendo,” or “PRIDE Shogun would have taken it to Jones.”  There is a reason we, to this day, talk about a fighter in his 2005 form, 8 years later.  Shogun’s 2005 run is still viewed as one of the best years any fighter has ever had, and it was all topped off by the brutal and masterful beating of Ricardo Arona.  THAT is the PRIDE Shogun that us fanboys never shut our mouths about, and THAT Shogun’s run is the one we wish we could have back on an every fight basis.  We still may see that Shogun, as injuries and punishment aside, he is still only 31.  But you’ll be hard pressed to find a fan talk about his career, and not start and end with his Grand Prix win, and the fight that capped the entire tournament.

About adm2rcar

Adam Carr has been an avid fan of Mixed Martial arts since 2003, and lives and loves it every day. A Jiu Jitsu Practitioner from Team Curran MMA in Crystal Lake, Illinois, his interest for the history of the sport drives him to learn even more every day.

View all posts by adm2rcar

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