The People's Main Event is a feature we will be doing each fight week in order to promote one of the more intriguing matchups that may not be getting all the love that comes with being a true main event on a UFC main card. The UFC gives more than enough attention to the headline fighters with all the countdown shows, TV spots, and free fights, and we thought out time and effor would be better spent building up one of the other, less promoted bouts.
This week's featured fight is an exciting matchup in the light heavyweight division between Mauricio Shogun Rua vs. James Te Huna.
MAURICIO 'SHOGUN' RUA
At one point in time, Shogun was one of, if not the most feared striker in mixed martial arts. Out of his 21 wins, 18 came by way of knockout, and 15 of which occurred in the 1st round of action. It's worth noting that many of these 1st round finishes took longer than the UFC standard of five minutes per round and even more involved the use of now-foreign terms like 'soccer kicks' and 'stomps'. Although, when names like Chuck Liddell, Lyoto Machida, Forrest Griffin, Mark Coleman, Rampage Jackson, and Little Nog stand among your list of victims, I think you've earned the right to ignore any statistical asterisks that may be attached to your name.
This former champion of both the UFC and Pride is a top hall of fame candidate on all lists and his legacy has long been cemented in the hearts and minds of fans and critics alike. But the man fighting this Friday is not the same man who knocked out Chuck Liddell at UFC 97. If Shogun falls short in his bout against Te Huna, that will leave him with just two wins in his last seven fights, sending the media into broken-record mode once again as they are forced to ask the same old question of "Where does he go from here?" Talks of dropping down to middleweight have already surfaced and the dreaded "R" word will undoubtedly rear its ugly head in the post fight presser, however ALL can be avoided with a big win over a surging Te Huna.
JAMES TE HUNA
James Te Huna is a New Zealand native, fighting out of Sydney, Australia, and he is sure to receive the lion's share of support from the Aussie crowd Friday night; even against a perennial fan-favorite like Shogun. He began fighting professionally back in 2003. After winning the Cage Fighting Championship Light Heavyweight Grand Prix in 2009, he caught the attention of the UFC and has performed brilliantly ever since. He currently boasts a UFC record of 5-2, with losses to the current No. 1 and No. 2 contenders in Alexander Gustafsson and Glover Teixeira respectively. The five wins include three knock out victories and a Fight of the Night decision win over Joey Beltran back in 2012.
James is a well rounded fighter with takedown ability, an active ground game and very dangerous power on the feet as well as in the clinch. He is a thrilling fighter to watch and in a lot of ways, he has a similar feel to vintage Shogun Rua; referring to his style, aggressiveness, and flair for the dramatics, certainly not based on his resume. Te Huna is a true talent and could very well become a top contender for the UFC light heavyweight belt in the near future as current champ, Jon Jones has already worked his way through most of the top 10 in decisive fashion. The monkey wrench of Jones' plans to move to heavyweight may hurt his chances at a title run, as the prospect of 'skipping the line' becomes more far-fetched with a new champion in play. This is especially true if Gustafsson or Glover hold the belt next, both of which had pretty dominate performances over Te Huna in the past. However as the old saying goes; a win is a win. And Te Huna can only help his chances by defeating Shogun in front of the home crowd.
WHAT TO EXPECT
This one will stay standing. Te Huna and Shogun are known to stand and bang and with both men looking to deliver a statement-making dominate performance, I expect each fighter to try to end things quickly with a signature knockout. In fact, an intriguing storyline might be developing between the main event and co-main event to see who will take home Knockout of the Night honors. We may see a takedown attempt or two by Te Huna, but the weapon will likely be used to keep Shogun guessing and not as a legitimate means to finish the fight. That being said, Te Huna needs to be careful of Shoguns striking and will likely look to clinch early and land some big punches from inside with his heralded dirty boxing ability. This could very easily be named Fight of the Night as well as there is nothing more dangerous than an animal backed into a corner and both of these light heavyweights have something to prove on Friday. Expect a war. This one will be good.