It has been nearly 13 years since Mauricio "Shogun" Rua won the UFC's light heavyweight championship by knocking out Lyoto Machida in the first round at UFC 113 in Montreal on May 8, 2010. He lost it to a young fighter by the name of Jones — Jon Jones — in his first defense 10 months later, but he's remained a significant player on the UFC roster.
It comes to an end on Saturday, though, for the now 41-year-old native of Curitiba, Brazil, when he meets Ihor Potieria at UFC 283 in Rio de Janeiro in front of an adoring crowd that no doubt will be emotional while it wishes him farewell.
Rua had his greatest successes before his UFC debut, as he was 16-2 before he joined the UFC and has gone 11-11 in the 15-plus years since. Nobody, however, can say he's taking easy fights like UFC president Dana White said about Francis Ngannou on Saturday even if White made the comment for strategic business reasons and not because he really believed it.
Rua's fought a who's who of the greatest 205-pound mixed martial artists of the last 20 or so years, some of them more than once.
But he's going out as an underdog at BetMGM, at +155, to Potieria. Potieria, who is 0-1 in the UFC, is a -190 favorite. Potieria began his MMA career 3-2, but has won 15 of his next 16, with the only loss coming at UFC 277 to Nicolae Negumereanu at UFC 277 in Dallas, Texas, in July.
The UFC gave Rua about as good of a matchup as it could for his retirement fight, but I'm afraid he's squeezed every last bit out of the talent that he had. If this were a prime Rua versus a prime Potieria, Rua might be a 5-1 or 6-1 favorite.
But this is a 41-year-old Rua who is no longer as quick or as fast as he once was. He's a striker and he's fought with that kill or be killed mentality for his entire career. It would be ridiculous to believe he'll change now.
I suspect Potieria may win by KO, but I'm going to leave that alone and just be content with playing him to win.
The bet: Ihor Potieria -190
Teixeira an underdog at home in main event
Former champion Glover Teixeira meets Jamahal Hill for the vacant light heavyweight title in the main event. Teixeira, who was supposed to rematch Jiri Prochazka in December before Prochazka was injured and had to pull out, is at even money. Hill is a -120 favorite.
Hill is a terrific KO puncher and few have been able to stand up to his power. But as Teixeira showed in his loss to Prochazka in Singapore last year, Teixeira is extraordinarily durable and very well-rounded.
He was hurt badly by strikes several times by Prochazka at UFC 275, and Prochazka is one of the best finishers in the sport. But Teixeira survived the strikes and it was a late rear naked choke that wound up finishing him.
I think he'll have to walk a tightrope against Hill and controlling the distance will be key. If he stays at distance, Hill is liable to hurt him and finish him. But if Teixeira controls the distance and where the fight is fought — which he often does — I think he takes it.
The bet: Glover Teixeira EVEN
Who knows about Figueiredo and Moreno?
Brandon Moreno, the interim flyweight champion, and full champion Deiveson Figueiredo have already fought three times, with each winning once and the other a draw. However, Figueiredo would have won that fight were he not deducted a point in the third round for a low blow.
All three fights have been different stylistically and Moreno is likely to be different this time as he was forced to change coaches when the UFC banned its fighters from being trained by James Krause. Moreno instead hired Sayif Saud of Fortis MMA to coach him.
The line is -110 each way given the close nature of their rivalry. Moreno did get a finish in their second fight, and many thought he deserved to win the third bout though the decision went to Figueiredo.
This is a fight I'd probably stay away from given all of the unknowns, but since it's a title fight, I'll wager a half-unit on Moreno to win.
Figueiredo is fighting at home and hasn't had that dominant performance against Moreno many have expected. He could come out with it this time. But Moreno has proven to be more versatile and so I'll lay a half-unit on him to win.
The bet: Brandon Moreno -110
Walker favored over Craig
Johnny Walker will meet Paul Craig in the opener of the main card in what is a truly fascinating fight. Walker is a giant of a man with loads of athleticism, but he's prone to mistakes. Craig, on the other hand, is much more of a technical fighter who uses a cerebral approach to the game.
Walker is, surprisingly, a -190 favorite, with Craig at +155 on the buyback.
I think the line on Walker is artificially high because he's a Brazilian fighting in Brazil. Craig admittedly didn't look good in his last outing, when he was bullied and beaten by Volkan Oezdemir in July. But I think Craig is the play here.
Walker, at 6-5, has a six-inch reach advantage over Craig (82-76) and that's significant. Craig is a high-level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and Walker has only been submitted once in his seven losses, and that was in 2015.
Craig, though, is highly resilient and is brilliant when the fight gets to the ground.
The bet: Paul Craig +155