Shogun Rua (21-7, 18 KO’s, 1 Sub)
Shogun has alternated wins and losses over his last seven bouts, dropping his latest trip into the cage via a unanimous decision to top ranked challenger Alexander Gustafsson last December. If the pattern holds true, Shogun should leave the Octagon with his hand raised but Chael Sonnen will do his best to make certain that pattern is broken.
Though most fighters with over ten years fighting professionally would be succumbing to middle age, Rua is still only 31-years-old but has plenty of mileage on those tires. Nevertheless if he can capture a victory over a name opponent like Sonnen he may find himself in a rematch with the champion Jon Jones in the not too distant future.
Rua will do his best to keep this fight standing as he did in his rematch against Forest Griffin. If you recall in their first match, Rua was submitted in the third round by rear naked choke but came back, albeit over three years later, in their rematch with a game plan to keep the fight off the mat resulting in a first round knockout. You would think a Brazilian fighter trained as a black belt in BJJ would be more comfortable as a grappler but Shogun has enormous power in both hands as his 18 KO’s attest. He will be forced to employ a solid takedown defense if he is to stymie Sonnen in this one.
Chael Sonnen (27-13, 7 KO’s, 4 Subs)
Sonnen could not have picked two more daunting opponents in his last two matches than Anderson Silva and Jon Jones. He lost both title matches, for the middleweight and light heavyweight titles respectively, by TKO and it looked like he was contemplating a permanent departure from the cage wars. However, he returns in this UFC event to battle a top ranked light heavyweight in Shogun before dropping down to the middleweights where he must be convinced that the new champion Chris Weidman will be a bit more vulnerable than the legendary Anderson Silva.
Sonnen may be lauded for his exceptional wrestling skills but he’s evidenced striking prowess in the past. Seven knockout victories versus only four submissions on his record may initially lead one to determine that he is clearly comfortable banging with the big hitters like Shogun. However, upon further review it should be noted that Sonnen has never had a knockout in the big leagues of MMA. Since entering the now defunct WEC and then the UFC, Sonnen has amassed a record of 7-5 with six of those victories coming by way of decision and only one via submission. Interestingly of his five losses, three have come by submission and his last two were both by TKO.
As we peruse the UFC odds at WilliamHill.com I was surprised to see that Chael Sonnen is a decided favorite in this fight. If the fight goes to a decision then Sonnen may indeed have the edge as he is renowned for his cardio and that may play a factor as this is will be designated as a five round scheduled main event.
However, I’m not convinced Sonnen is ready to rebound off his last two ass kickings. He got brutalized in both fights and though Shogun is not, nor will he ever be, at the level of Silva and Jones he is equipped to knock Sonnen flat if given the opportunity. In a classic puncher versus wrestler matchup, I am normally inclined to side with the wrestler but here my verdict is Shogun in my UFC picks.UFC Picks: Play Shogun +120 at WilliamHill.com