The legend of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua lives on. Sort of.
The former UFC light heavyweight champion, who had a multiyear stretch of more downs than ups in the aftermath of his brief, long-ago title run, appeared somewhat refreshed on Saturday night, enough to get a split draw against Paul Craig in the co-main event of the Jan Blachowicz-Jacare Souza Fight Night in Sao Paulo.
Rua, 37, had to play catchup, as Craig started fast. The Scotsman clearly was not the A-side of this fight, at least not in the eyes of an arena crowd that showed adoration for “Shogun” from the moment he appeared in the building. But the aggressiveness that used to be the trademark of a Rua fight? On this night it was coming from Craig, at least early.
Craig, 31, who came in with submissions in 11 of his 12 career victories, took it to Rua in Rua’s world, landing a spinning head kick in the opening minute and later in Round 1 trapping “Shogun” against the cage and unloading punches. Rua’s face showed the effects of the assault once the punches stopped coming and he moved his arms away from his face.
It was looking like Craig’s night, but Rua persevered. That was the one glimpse seen of the old “Shogun,” the legend who even as an active fighter is already in the UFC Hall of Fame. He and Dan Henderson were honored last year with induction of their electrically charged 2011 battle, in which Rua also persevered.
Rua (26-11-1), who has lost only one of his past six fights, eventually turned this one his way by taking it into Craig’s world. He took to the canvas, where Craig (12-4-1) seemed content to remain. The problem for the submission ace was that Rua was too cagey to succumb to a trap.
So even though the Brazilian was not landing anything too damaging, he was on top for long stretches, which makes an impression on judges. Apparently, it did not make a strong enough impression. One judge scored the fight 29-28 for him. Another had the same score in Craig’s favor. And the third saw it as 28-28, scoring the first round 10-8 for Craig and giving the other two rounds to Rua. That produced just the second draw in light heavyweight history, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. The other: Rashad Evans vs. Tito Ortiz at UFC 73 in 2007.
“It was clear that he won the first round and I won the other two,” Rua said afterward through an interpreter. “I thought it was totally unfair.”
Craig had disappointment of a different kind.
“I came to Brazil and got a draw against a Brazilian legend,” he said. “I just wish I had done more. I should have done better.”
Lightweight: Charles Oliveira (28-8) defeats Jared Gordon (15-4) by first-round KO
Who says he is a submission specialist? Oliveira claimed his sixth straight victory — his second in a row by knockout — by dropping Gordon with a counter right hand to thrill the home crowd in Sao Paulo with a lightning finish at 1:26 of the first round.
Oliveira, the UFC’s leader in submission victories with 13, got the fight to the canvas briefly; but when Gordon took it back to standing, Oliveira did not flinch. With Gordon backing him up toward the cage, Oliveira landed the sharp right hand that sent his opponent crashing to the mat, dazed.
For Oliveira, the KOs in his past two fights are the first two of his 25-fight UFC run. Must we now regard him as a KO specialist?
From ESPN Stats & Info: Oliveira’s fifth first-round finish at lightweight is tied for third most in division history. His six-fight finish streak is now the longest active streak in the UFC, breaking a tie with Marlon Vera.
Middleweight: Andre Muniz (19-4) defeats Antonio Arroyo (9-3) by unanimous decision
Arroyo came charging across the Octagon at the start and sent Muniz into immediate retreat. But that was about it for Arroyo as an aggressor, as he spent much of the rest of the three rounds on the defensive against the grappling of Muniz, who took the unanimous decision for his fifth straight victory.
Arroyo had a five-fight winning streak of his own coming in. And his early flourish looked promising. But from that point on, it was the striker defending against grappling and the grappler fending off striking, not a crowd-pleasing combination.
Muniz had a few moments on the canvas when a finish appeared possible, but Arroyo made it to the final horn. Arroyo just didn’t show the urgency he needed to turn the fight his way.
“I knew it would be a very difficult fight, but UFC called me, and I would never say ‘no,'” Muniz said. “I tried to do my best. It was enough to win, but I know it wasn’t my best. I came close to a submission or a knockout but ended up spending a lot of energy. In the end, it was all heart.
“I participated in the Contender Series Brazil last year. I won my fight but did not get the contract. When this opportunity came up again, I didn’t think twice and tried to grab as fast as possible.”
Middleweight: Wellington Turman (16-3) defeats Markus Perez (11-3) by unanimous decision
Wellington Turman and Markus Perez go back and forth exchanging strikes in the second round of their bout at UFC Fight Night. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Turman got his first UFC victory by showing himself to be the stronger fighter in a slow-paced bout that never seemed to get going until Perez wore down in the third round. All three judges scored it 30-27 for Turman.
The 23-year-old Turman got back on track after seeing a four-fight winning streak end in his UFC debut in July. He had to deal with the flashy striking of Perez early. But as the minutes ticked off the clock, with Turman the fresher man, he seized control until a too-little-too-late rally by his opponent.
“Markus is a crazy guy,” Turman said. “We teased each other a lot during the fight, but I had already said I would tease him the same way he teased me. It was a tough fight, but I was better.
“I am always training, always on the go. Every time the UFC needs me to save a fight, I will be available. I’m very happy. It’s my dream to be part of this. I’m very young. I still have a lot to evolve.”
Welterweight: James Krause (27-7) defeats Sergio Moraes (14-7-1) by third-round KO
“The fight went exactly how me and my team thought it would,” Krause said. “I thought he would wear down over time and I would find the knockout with a knee or a punch.
“I hate talking about the future — I just want to go home and be with my family — but I think the next obvious thing is for me to face a top-15 contender. This is my sixth win in a row.”
“The experience in Brazil was exactly what I thought it was going to be,” he continued. “It is never fun to have the crowd saying that you are going to die, but the environment here is crazy. The atmosphere inside the arena is amazing.”
From ESPN Stats & Info: Krause extends his win streak to four with his eighth career win by KO/TKO.
Featherweight: Ricardo Ramos (14-2) defeats Eduardo Garagorri (13-1) by rear naked choke in first round
“I came here today to show my full potential,” Ramos said. “I am very happy with the win, and my performance could not have been better. I came to have fun and show that I am coming into this division. With humility, focus and dedication, I will reach the top.
“I’m not a perfectionist, but I always need to look for my best, and when I don’t perform at my best, I get sad. As I move up to featherweight, the focus for this fight was to improve my performance. I got it, and this is the division where I will stay.”
From ESPN Stats & Info: Ramos wins his second straight with his seventh career submission win. He moves to 5-1 in the UFC with his first at featherweight after starting his UFC career at bantamweight.
Lightweight: Francisco Trinaldo (24-7) defeats Bobby Green (24-10-1) by unanimous decision
Bobby Green and Francisco Trinaldo get off to a heated start in the first round of their bout at UFC Fight Night. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
“It was a good fight, a tough one,” Trinaldo said. “I didn’t expect his ground game. I actually trained more striking during my camp. But I am happy that I can leave with a win and once again here in Sao Paulo.
“I would like to face Edson Barboza next. He is the best Muay Thai athlete in Brazil. I think it would be a great match.”
From ESPN Stats & Info: Trinaldo extends his record of UFC wins in Brazil to 12.
Welterweight: Randy Brown (12-3) defeats Warlley Alves (14-4) by triangle choke in second round
“I plan to get the finish every time I get out there and fight — that is my goal,” Brown said. “It wasn’t exactly how I wanted to be, but we are still working. I am getting better. The first round, I got a little slow start. I slipped at the beginning and did not want to use too much energy trying to get up. Second round, I just went back to what I am good at and won the fight.
“I would like to fight Michael Chiesa next. He moved up to the welterweight division, and I would like to be his next opponent.”
From ESPN Stats & Info: It was the fourth career submission win for Brown, second in the UFC. He has now won two consecutive fights. Brown has 10 finishes in 12 career wins.
Featherweight: Douglas Silva de Andrade (26-3) defeats Renan Barao (34-9) by unanimous decision
Douglas Silva de Andrade lands a flurry of punches that catches Renan Barao off guard in their bout at UFC Fight Night. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
From ESPN Stats & Info: Silva de Andrade moves to 4-3 in the UFC with his sixth career win by decision. Barao loses his fifth consecutive fight. Since losing the bantamweight title to TJ Dillashaw in 2014, Barao is 2-7. Barao’s losing streak is tied for second longest among former UFC champions, behind BJ Penn’s seven.
“I had promised it would be an action-packed fight, and I think I fulfilled that,” Silva said. “I put on a show to the fans. I thank UFC for believing in my work, and it was a great honor to fight Renan Barao, an athlete that I always admired, always made sure to watch his fights. He is a former champion, has a legacy and deserves all the credits.”
Flyweight: Ariane Lipski (12-5) defeats Isabela de Padua (0-2) by unanimous decision
Ariane Lipski wastes no time as she opens up with a flurry of shots to Isabela de Padua at UFC Fight Night. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
“They booed me, but no one knows what’s going on behind the scenes,” Lipski said. “I made weight, I did my part. I trained for four months; my opponent changed four times during my camp. I accepted this fight [against a different opponent] with one-day notice. I could have not accepted, but I agreed because I prepared so much for that day. I did my best. I know I won every round, but I also know that I can’t please everyone.
“That was not even a submission [that she had on me]. I train jiu-jitsu and participate in jiu-jitsu tournaments. That was an inverted triangle, and I was just trying to get out. She was not locking me in; there is no submission in that position.
“I’m so thrilled that I got the win at home; it’s a dream I’ve had since I started in the UFC. Last year was not my best moment as an athlete, but today I knew I would come out with the win anyway.”
From ESPN Stats & Info: Lipski snaps a two-fight losing streak, earning her first UFC win and fourth win by decision. De Padua’s five-fight win streak is snapped in her UFC debut. She took the fight on just 24 hours’ notice.
Women’s bantamweight: Tracy Cortez (7-1) defeats Vanessa Melo (10-7) by unanimous decision
Tracy Cortez lands multiple punches to the body of Vanessa Melo in the last 25 seconds of their bout at UFC Fight Night. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
“It was a hectic week, but I have the right coaches to keep my mind at ease and nothing affected me,” Cortez said. “I just stayed focused on the fight. About the fans, I knew the crowd was not going to like me at first, but Brazil is amazing. The fact that they can just cheer someone on like they did is mind-blowing. I pray that when I fight in my hometown they cheer for me like that.”
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) November 16, 2019
From ESPN Stats & Info: Cortez wins her seventh consecutive fight after losing her MMA debut in 2017. The win is Cortez’s fifth by decision. Melo loses her second consecutive fight and drops to 0-2 in the UFC.
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