UFC 134 Rio preview: Forrest Griffin and Shogun Rua look to remain among elite UFC light heavyweights

Forrest Griffin(left) will face Shogun Rua at UFC 134 for the second time

The UFC 134 Rio: Silva vs. Okami co-main event as two former UFC light heavyweight champions will battle for the second time. Shogun Rua will re-match Forrest Griffin in a return bout that first took place at UFC 76 in which was Rua’s octagon debut. Griffin won the first bout via submission late in the third round after a grueling back and forth battle. Let’s see what has changed in four years:

Forrest Griffin comes into this fight with a career record of (18-6) with 7 wins via submission and 3 wins via TKO/KO. Griffin was last seen in action earlier this year winning a unanimous decision agaisnt Rich Franklin at UFC 126. Griffin is a sizable light heavyweight, a workhorse, someone that throws a high volume of strikes, and someone with an underrated ground game. If there’s one knock on Griffin it’s that he cuts very easily and has been knocked out in 3 of his 4 UFC losses.

Shogun Rua comes into this fight with a career record of (19-5) with 16 wins via TKO/KO and 1 submission to his credit. He was last seen in action getting demolished by Jon Jones as he attempted to defend his UFC light heavyweight title for the first time at UFC 128. Rua has a great arsenal of strikes with his muay thai base, and is well versed in submissions on the ground. If there’s a knock on him it’s that he does have a history of knee injuries that makes his cardio questionable at times. Also, he will give up takedowns at times during his fights.

Bet on Fighting has Rua as the betting favorite at (-240) and Griffin as the underdog at (+190). I don’t bet or make predictions on betting lines, but I’d be all over Griffin with those odds. I couldn’t have him as that big of an underdog after Rua’s last performance and with Griffin beating him the first time.

I’ve gone back and forth on this fight and there are so many variables that we really don’t know that could influence this fight in different ways. Are Rua’s knees actually healthy enough to allow him to do the proper amount of cardio? There were rumors of him suffering a knee injury in training camp that was refuted, but you never know how that goes. Griffin has done interviews in which he has basically implied that he’s not ‘hungry’ to fight and win like he used to, basically saying that he has had problems motivating himself to train. I can’t control those things so I’m going to leave them right there and just break down this fight stylistically.

Griffin has the style that can give Rua problems as we saw in the first fight. People like to say that the only reason Griffin won was because Rua had the knee injury. I don’t doubt that had some impact on the fight, but Griffin basically just outworked Rua in that fight. That’s just what Griffin does. 

I think Rua comes fast out of the gates and really tries to take it to Griffin in the first round. He’s probably embarrased with his last performance, he’ll have the home crowd behind him, and he’s trying to avenge a loss from a fight in which he was the huge favorite. I think he’ll try to keep the fight standing to avoid wasting any unnecessary energy grappling with the larger Griffin. I think he’ll attack with leg and body kicks to keep his distance and avoid giving Griffin the opportunity to take him down. If Rua doesn’t get Griffin out of there early, I think he’s going to have problems though.

I think Griffin is just going to try to weather the early storm. He may come right out and immediately try to put Rua on his back the same way he did Rich Franklin. He took Rua down a couple of times in the first fight by getting a body lock on Rua and then tripping him to the floor. He should be able to have some success with that as Rua will give up takedowns. I think Griffin realizes that he does not want to stand and trade strikes with Rua for three rounds. He neutralizes Rua’s biggest weapon with a takedown and can also use his size to grind on Rua while getting him to expend energy. Rua’s not really a threat to submit anyone off his back and while he’s versed on the ground he only has one submission win to his credit. That was against the submission prone Kevin Randleman.

I would prefer that Rua won, but I’m going to have to go with Forrest Griffin via decision here. It’s only a three round fight and Griffin tends to thrive when he’s the underdog and the Brazilians will certainly give him added motivation to quiet them.

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