As we approach UFC 76: Knockout on September 22, 2007, one question lingers on the minds of mixed martial arts fans:  Will MAURICIO “Shogun” RUA’s game be as effective inside the octagon cage as it has been in PRIDE’s boxing ring?  He has not fought inside the cage in almost 5 years when he was choked out by RENATO SOBRAL.  This question is more valid to RUA’s game more than any fighter coming over to the UFC from PRIDE.  Following the previous two MIRKO CRO COP matches in the UFC – both losses – the question of transitioning a fighting style from the open boxing ring into a cage is becoming an important one.  Case by case appears to be the best way to analyze this question.  While QUINTON JACKSON and DAN HENDERSON have proven that the transition has not drastically altered their methods, in CRO COP’s case the transition has obviously been disastrous. 

RUA is an interesting case.  He’s a very tough competitor and inside the PRIDE ring, he’s defeated some great opposition such as QUINTON JACKSON, ANTONIO ROGERIO NOGUEIRA, RICARDO ARONA, KEVIN RANDLEMAN, KAZUHIRO NAKAMURA and ALISTAIR OVEREEM (twice).  His patented stomps and soccer kicks have been devastating tools he has developed while moving up the ranks in PRIDE FC.  A potential problem is that the UFC does not allow kicks to an opponent’s head while the opponent is on the ground.  Another question will be his handling of strikes the UFC does allow such as elbow strikes – something CRO COP admittedly was not ready to deal with.  His cage experience is comprised of just a few matches.  He has earned the reputation of being one of the greatest fighters in mixed martial arts.  So as he debuts at UFC 76, will he be the next QUINTON JACKSON or MIRKO CRO COP?  He should continue in the steps of JACKSON and it will be answered on September 22nd.

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Following his bout with David Heath at UFC 74: Respect, “Babalu” Sobral showed Heath anything but respect!  In fact, Sobral’s neglect in keeping an anaconda choke on Heath for an extra 3 to 4 seconds after referee Steve Mazzagatti tried to stop the fight, has forced UFC president Dana White to terminate Sobral’s contract with the UFC.  According to ufcjunkie.com, Sobral admitted to his shameful action in the ring during a post-fight interview – he wanted to teach Heath “a lesson” for disrespecting him during the previous day’s fight weigh-ins.

Sobral is an extremely intense fighter in the ring.  His intensity level was apparent after he was knocked out by Chuck Liddell in their uneventful bout last year.  Sobral woke up with referee John McCarthy on top of him, calling an end to the fight.  He then immediately tried to put McCarthy into a leg lock, not realizing the fight was over and that he was trying to submit the referee, not Liddell.

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His intensity is in no way a defense for his actions against Heath, especially since his adherence to the choke hold was self-admitted.  The UFC has justly taken swift action but there is a feeling that we will once again see Sobral in the octagon.  Past UFC fighters have left, vowing to never return to the UFC.  Think:  BJ Penn and Tito Ortiz, two of the most popular fighters in the organization.  When asked if he thinks Sobral is gone for good, UFC President Dana White responded with, “I never say never”.  If Sobral never returns, there’s always Elite XC – licking their chops as we speak.