The UFC calendar is light in July as it loads up for an August that features four full events for our fight-viewing pleasure. August 17th will see the UFC return to Boston for the UFC Fight Night 26 event headlined by the Light Heavyweight bout between Chael Sonnen and Mauricio Rua. A quick look at the odds at the sportbooks as we sit roughly a month away from the fight reveals that Sonnen is currently a (-145) betting favorite, with the comeback on ‘Shogun’ sitting at (+125).
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Sonnen has talked his way into his last two matches, which were both title fights, and he has dropped two in a row. Those two losses make a third loss something Sonnen needs to avoid at all costs. Should he win this fight, it would be his first win as a Light Heavyweight in quite some time, and it could possibly set up a true grudge match with Rua friend and teammate Vanderlei Silva. The chances of a Sonnen win are slim however, which is what makes the line so surprising.
Rua is certainly on the B side of his career, and he is coming off a loss to Alexander Gustafsson that propelled Gustafsson into a title shot. Rua’s last several fights (Brandon Vera, Dan Henderson also) were long wars that many fear took a lot out of Rua. But even in the losses, Rua was around until the end, and in fact was beginning to steal rounds at the end of the Henderson fight.
Rua and Sonnen will probably both be looking to start fast, and both need to finish fast if the want to avoid another war of attrition. This is a main event five round fight, and the fighters are likely to get right into it, avoided a long feeling out process.
This benefits Rua, as Sonnen’s TKO wins mainly come after the takedown, and Rua has a good track record of finishing fights on the feet with strikes. Sonnen could also be made to burn off a lot of energy in the early going if he tries to take ‘Shogun’ down, as ‘Shogun’ has very good takedown defense and will at least make Sonnen work hard for them.
If Sonnen gets the takedowns, look for him to win the early rounds, as his control on the floor is good and his ground and pound looks damaging if he is throwing bomb from the stiff posture he likes to keep.
Though Sonnen could finish Rua with ground and pound, it is unlikely. Rua has survived close to three rounds with Jon Jones, and he has gone the distance with Dan Henderson and was definitely turning the tide in the fight when the bell rang. He also rose above a bigger Brandon Vera and took him out in the 4th round, so despite the fact that Rua tires also he is dangerous in the later rounds of a long fight.
Rua has the advantages if it turns into a fast firefight, and he has the advantages if the fight goes long. Take Rua as the dog while you can….