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Machida-Rua: Expect fireworks!

Story by Andreas Hale

After September 22nd of 2007, if you predicted that Mauricio “Shogun” Rua would be fighting Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida for the light heavyweight championship, mixed martial arts pundits may have called you insane.

You see, September 22nd was the day both Machida and Rua fought at UFC 76. Machida was just getting his feet wet in the UFC and scored a unanimous decision over Kazuhiro Nakamura. Rua was introduced to the Octagon by a Forrest Griffin rear naked choke that shocked the entire world of MMA. People were skeptical of both Rua and Machida. The future of “Shogun” was in question as was considered to be possibly past his prime and on the fast track downhill while “The Dragon” and his awkward karate style may have been winning fights - but not in spectacular fashion.

Oh, what a difference a couple of years make.

Fast forward two years and who would have thought that Lyoto Machida would not only remain undefeated, but has yet to lose a single round in any of his UFC fights. He has become an assassin in the Octagon after knocking out both Thiago Silva and then-UFC Light Heavyweight champion Rashad Evans in beautifully brutal fashion. Today, many consider Machida one of MMA’s elite.

Who would have thought Mauricio Rua would be back on top of his game after a loss and two knee surgeries looked to send his bright star crashing to the ground? Rua may have looked sluggish in his TKO stoppage of UFC legend Mark Coleman. But when the former Pride FC Middleweight Grand Prix champion turned the lights out on Chuck Liddell with a devastating left hook in the first round, people remembered why “Shogun” was once considered the one of the best light heavyweights in the world.

On October 24th, the two will square off in the Octagon for Machida’s Light Heavyweight championship in a battle that looks to be loaded with fireworks.

“I don’t expect to see any submissions or wrestling in this fight,” Dana White said during the conference that took place at the Westside Pavilion Mall in Los Angeles. “I expect punches, kicks and elbows from two of arguably the best fighters in the business.”

Not known for many words, Machida kept his message short and sweet while wearing a sharp suit that had “I’m all business” written all over it.

“First of all, thank you for coming,” Machida said in English as he continues to learn the language. “I appreciate all of the fans in Los Angeles. Los Angeles is my second home. I will put on a great performance on Saturday. Thank you!”

Rua knows that this fight is detrimental to the future in the UFC. If he is able to get through Machida, it will be a message to every 185 pound fighter who thinks that he is in the twilight of his career.

“I would like to say to all of the fans that on the 24th I will be doing my best to give a great spectacle to you guys because you (the fans) pay all of our salaries so I want to give all of you a great showing. I hope to come back with a win.”

The co-feature is one that also looks to be a all out war. Cain Velasquez was heading toward a shootout with Shane Carwin but found the rug pulled from under him when Carwin ended up being thrust into a title fight with UFC Heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar. No worries though. Dana White found the perfect man to fill in the void Carwin left. With rival promotion Affliction breaking down, Ben Rothwell was available to get his first taste of the Octagon. With an impressive MMA record 30-6 and 28 of his victories coming by either KO or submission, Rothwell is the perfect fighter to give Velasquez a run for his money. Obviously, this fight has huge implications on the future of the heavyweight division.

“They are definitely in the mix to get a shot (at the winner of Lesnar and Carwin),” White said to when asked if the winner will get a title shot. “The heavyweight division hasn’t been more exciting and there are so many fighters you can mix and match but the guy who wins the fight is in the mix.”

But before these two throw down, they both gave their final words to the media.

For Velazquez, this fight represents another massive test. At UFC 99 he had his hands full with Cheick Kongo who gave him all he could handle but showed an immense heart and pulled out an impressive unanimous decision. A victory over Rothwell would prove that Velasquez is ready for the bright lights and heavyweight title fights.

“I’m excited to be here,” Velasquez said. “I’m excited for Saturday and I really can’t wait. I had a good training camp so let’s get to it.”

“As the co-main-event I want to do my part in getting this thing going and setting the bar,” a supremely confident Rothwell said. If he is able to dispatch of the young Velasquez in spectacular fashion in his UFC debut, all eyes will be on Big Ben. It’s definitely a test that Rothwell has been studying to pass with flying colors. “In all my heart and soul I know that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be doing exactly what I’m supposed to do. Unfortunately for Cain, it is him who I am going to do it to. I have all the respect in the world for my opponents. Inside the Octagon it is business.”

Expect UFC 104 to be all business. No dancing, no avoiding contact, no posing. Expect fireworks. Expect two fights that have fight of the night written all over them. But most of all, expect the unexpected.



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