(This post first appeared on MMAFrenzy.)
“Shogun” Rua has talked about locking up a title shot if he scores a win this Sunday at UFC Fight Night 133, but what’s at stake for the legendary fighter in his fight with Anthony Smith? Is the former champ in a must win situation?
Rua and Smith will battle in the headliner of the July 22nd event, which will take place in Hamburg, Germany. As the fight approaches, Rua is riding a three fight winning streak, which has caught the eye of 205 champ, Daniel Cormier. Case in point, “DC” has said he’d be interested in fighting Rua, provided he wins at the event. “Shogun”, meanwhile, has said that due to what he’s accomplished in his career, and because of his recent run, he “absolutely” deserves another crack at the light-heavyweight crown.
First things first, however, and that’s getting by Smith, who agreed to step in for Volkan Oezdemir. The former middleweight is coming off a quick, stoppage win over Rashad Evans, and the 29 year-old is 4-1 in his last five contests. While discussing Smith recently, Rua said this (quotes via MMA Fighting):
“We have to always be ready for any situation,” Rua said. “The styles match up well because I was training for a striker for five months and Anthony is a striker as well, so it wasn’t a terrible change.
”I’m working hard on my Muay Thai so I’m not surprised by him because he’s good on the feet, but I also know that his ground game is not that efficient. It’s a MMA fight. If he gives me an opening I will take him down and work there.”
Now, Smith and his supporters might not agree with Rua’s take here that his ground game is “not that efficient”, but recently “Lionheart’s” striking skills have been delivering his victories. Rua also said that he’s focused on fighting Smith, rather than thinking too far ahead, in terms of facing Cormier. That’s wise, as Smith is a ridiculously dangerous opponent.
But, what if Rua loses? What would that mean for the 36 year-old? That depends.
If Smith does go out and viciously takes out the legend, as he’s said he will, then there likely will be calls for Rua to retire. Since the Brazilian star has won three in a row, it would be shocking if he was cut, but you know some will question whether Rua should continue to fight. His hopes of fighting for the title again will have been substantially setback, he has absolutely nothing to prove, and he’s also been fighting professionally for over 15 years.
Now, if Rua loses a close decision, however, then his future in fighting will undergo less scrutiny. But, if we’re talking about Rua’s title shot aspirations and even his pull as a headliner, then this fight is likely one of the must win variety.
But, hey, come Sunday we could be talking about an emphatic Rua victory, and whether it warrants a title fight booking.