If you stopped watching MMA after January 2009 you might think this award was some kind of a joke. However, no other MMA fighter experienced a bigger comeback in 2009. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua finished up his year with a controversial loss in a light heavyweight title bout. The fact that he was even competing for a title makes him the ProMMA.info Comeback Fighter of 2009.
Two years after shocking the world in Pride FC, Rua made his UFC debut against Forrest Griffin on Sept. 22, 2007. The former Middleweight GP champion was clearly not himself and submitted late in the third round.
From that point on Rua’s career was marred by injuries. He needed multiple surgeries to repair a lingering knee problem. He sat out the entire 2008 campaign.
After fully recovering he returned to the cage against the 44-year-old Mark Coleman. There was little question that ”Shogun” would win, but the question was, “how would he look in the fight?” The short answer to this question: terrible.
He looked like a guy who had not fought in over a year. The two fighters gassed out early. “Shogun” won the sloppy affair with a late round knockout.
The Internet was filled the usual reactionary blog posts. Everywhere on the web people were claiming that this once great fighter was done. The adage “you’re only as good as your last fight” was clearly in play.
On April 18, 2009 Rua proved everyone wrong. The UFC matched him against their aging superstar, Chuck Liddell. The accepted wisdom was that a win here by Liddell would thrust him right back into the title picture. It actually worked in reverse. When Rua floored his opponent in the first round, it was “Shogun” who earned the shot at the title.
At UFC 104 on Oct. 24, “Shogun” put on one of his most impressive performances to date. He received the loss, but for the first time he approached fighting with a game plan. Lyoto Machida was universally considered unbeatable. His footwork and approach to the game was legendary. Rua entered the cage and worked the champion’s legs with stiff kicks. When the final bell sounded it seemed like there was a new champion, but in the end the judges award Machida with the victory.
Even with the loss, Rua’s 2009 was better than anyone thought possible. In a lot of ways he performed better than he did in his breakout year, 2005. There was no fighter more deserving of ProMMA.info’s Comeback Fighter of 2009.
Be sure to check out the rest of the awards
ProMMA.info Breakthrough Fighter of 2009: Muhammed Lawal
ProMMA.info Disappointment of 2009: Josh Barnett
ProMMA.info Submission of 2009: Toby Imada’s Inverted Triangle Choke
ProMMA.info Female Fighter of 2009: “Cyborg” Santos
More coming soon!