It's tough to say a fighter who scores a TKO victory comes out of the battle a loser, but that was the case with Mauricio Rua in his win over Mark Coleman at UFC 93.
Rua, regarded as the best 205-pounder in the world when he was fighting for Japan's PRIDE, looked awful against the 44-year old Coleman, who was dropping his hands and looked completely exhausted three minutes into the fight. For most of the fight, the 27-year-old Brazilian, couldn't muster the energy to pound out Coleman, who was there for the taking.
Leading 2-0 on the scorecards, Rua was struggling to finish the fight and losing the third round when he got a good break from referee Kevin Mulhall. Mulhall brought the fight to the feet when he thought Rua threw an illegal knee on the ground. With his hands down at his side, Coleman was dead meat. Rua hurt him with a right hand that landed over his ear and then finished the seven-punch barrage with a right uppercut followed by a left hand that floored Coleman. Mulhall had to stop it with 24 seconds left. Coleman reacted angrily seconds later, pointing and yelling at the official, but he was clearly finished.
In the second round, UFC color voice Joe Rogan expressed amazement and the crowd at Dublin's 02 Arena showered Rua with boos as they watched him slap on an omoplata (shoulder lock). Coleman laid there helpless for 78 seconds. Rua threw a few punches but never tried to better his position and secure a finish. He watched the clock waiting for the round to end.
That Coleman gassed wasn't a huge shocker. The first-ever UFC heavyweight champion is 44 and hadn't fought in two years. Plus he was making the big drop from 230 pounds to 205. Cutting weight is a tricky game. Many fighters react horribly their first time at a lower weight.
"I'm upset, really disappointed in myself," said Coleman, who was so exhausted that he could barely speak in the cage following the fight. "A good fight's not good enough."
Rua tiring so quickly, though is a mystery. He had been off for 16 months but had plenty of time to prepare for this one. He also faded badly in his UFC debut against Forrest Griffin. He needs to dedicate himself to conditioning or he can't really compete with the big dogs in the UFC light heavyweight division.
It's hard to believe that a guy with Rua's resume now appears to be longshot to ever gain the UFC title strap. This is a fighter who had wins over Quinton Jackson, Ricardo Arona, Kevin Randleman and Alistair Overeem, all by the age of 25. The Brazilian camp Chute Boxe had a huge reputation in Japan with fighters like Rua, Wanderlei Silva (1-2 UFC) and Anderson Silva. Outside of the Anderson Silva, the intimidation factor is gone, and there has to be a real question about who's running the conditioning program for Rua. He was once in the top five on the MMA fighter pound-for-pound list. You can make the case now that he may not be amongst the top 10 for UFC light heavyweights.
Coleman may be a shot fighter or this could simply be the disaster fight that many mixed martial artists experience with their first big weight cut. It's hard to see the UFC selling the fans on a Coleman return to heavyweight so it looks like he may be destined for "205-gatekeeper" status. Coleman, who beat Rua in 2005 in a PRIDE fight, said that he'd like a third shot against Rua. There's little chance of that happening. Plus it's too risky, if Rua-Coleman III unfolded like this one did both guys would be cut from the promotion.