When it was announced in 2007 that The Ultimate Fighter 1 winner Forrest Griffin would be welcoming 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix winner Mauricio “Shogun” Rua to the Octagon, many wondered what Griffin had done to warrant such punishment from the UFC brass.
With a record of 16-2 at the time, Rua was widely regarded as one of the best light heavyweight fighters in the world, if not the best. The dynamic Brazilian fighter held notable victories over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Alistair Overeem, Ricardo Arona, Kevin Randleman and Alistair Overeem and was expected to do exceedingly well when brought over to the UFC after the promotion bought and dissolved Pride FC.
Despite having competed in the same number of fights as Rua, Griffin’s most notable recent opponents at the time were Tito Ortiz and Keith Jardine — and he’d lost to both. The two were scheduled to meet at UFC 76 at September 22 in Anaheim, California and most everyone predicted Griffin would be taking home his fifth career defeat that evening.
The affable fighter from Georgia had a different plan, however.
Once in the cage, Shogun came out looking for the takedown early and Griffin did well to avoid most of his initial attempts. Over the course of the evenly-contested first round, both Griffin and Rua found moments of success; they both scored takedowns and landed meaningful strikes and, though neither man took a significant lead, it was clear at the end of the first frame that Rua was in store for a scrap.
The second delivered more of the same, with Rua and Griffin scoring points with takedowns and strikes. Though he was clearly slowing down, it seemed that the momentum was beginning to sway in Rua’s favor, especially after he landed a big right elbow from Griffin’s guard that split open the American fighter.
By the last round though, Rua was spent and Griffin was still ready to go to work. Rua was game and didn’t make it easy for Griffin, but his opponent’s stifling top control was too much for him to withstand and he eventually withered. After giving up his back, it was only a matter of time before Griffin flattened Rua out and sunk in the rear naked choke, forcing Shogun to tap and putting an end to the fight at 4:45 of the final frame.
The fight would establish Griffin as a legitimate force at 205lbs. and would send Rua back to the drawing board. Moving forward, both men would ascend to the UFC light heavyweight throne, only to be unseated in their first title defenses. Now, they will finally meet in the cage again, in the co-main event of UFC 134, which takes place this August 27 at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
This time around, Griffin will be looking to prove that his first victory was no fluke, while Shogun will be seeking vengeance and to prove exactly that.