Once considered the future of the 205lb division, former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua heads into Friday night's UFC Fight Night 33 bout against James Te Huna on a two-fight losing streak, a first for him in his illustrious 22-fight career. The question all fans want to know heading into this light heavyweight affair is will Rua display his true potential.
Working with UFC welterweight fighter Demian Maia's team in Sao Paulo Brazil and having training partners such as fellow UFC stand outs Fabio Maldonado and Daniel Sarafian, the 32-year old feels very well prepared for Friday night's encounter.
"I'm feeling very good coming into this fight." Rua told TSN.ca through a translator.
While Te Huna doesn't hold the same name value as past opponents Lyoto Machida, Jon Jones or Alexander Gustafsson, the former Chute Boxe fighter believes his Australian foe is a worthy opponent.
"I think he's a guy that has earned some good wins in the UFC. He's a very aggressive fighter so it made all the sense in the world (to fight him) and it's going to be a great fight."
Te Huna's weakness is clearly in his ground game as all five of his losses have been by way of submission. Despite this, Rua doesn't have a specific game plan for the Athletic All-star pupil.
"We'll take the fight wherever it goes. The most important thing for me is to win the fight, regardless of how I do it or in which way."
Many pundits have suggested win or lose that perhaps "Shogun" would have better success dropping down to the middleweight division. While he hasn't ruled out the idea, it's not something that he's thinking about.
"I don't get stressed about it. It's natural for fans to ask about their favourite fighter dropping down in weight. I try to educate them, but it's not that simple."
Fighting for the first time in Australia, Rua is using this opportunity as extra motivation for a victory on Friday.
"I'm excited to be here for the first time. This is a place where the fans are really friendly and supportive of the fighters."
Meanwhile for the Aussie native Te Huna, fighting one of his idols on his home soil is a dream come true.
"I was a really big fan of Shogun during his PRIDE days when I first started MMA," said Te Huna to TSN.ca
Interestingly enough it was the 32-year-old Te Huna who asked for this fight when he heard the Brazilian was potentially available.
"I asked for the fight earlier this year and I thought it was a bit of a longshot for me with his two straight losses. Shogun has a huge fan base (in Australia); the UFC liked it and put it together."
Despite Te Huna being a slight favourite in the eyes of the odds makers, he's well aware of the skill Rua can present on any given night.
"A lot of people are writing him off (in this fight) but people tend to forget when he's coming off injury it takes a fight or two for him to come back strong."
"It's going to be a tough match. He's fought the "A" level guys and most of the guys I've fought are the "B" level."
In addition, the Mark Hunt trained Te Huna is well aware of his weaknesses on the mat and expects an all-out war.
"I'm prepared for this fight if it goes to the ground. I'm going to expect everything."
"I don't think Shogun is going to take any risks, he needs to win this fight. Whatever he needs to do he's going to do it. If it's submissions, then he'll go for it."
For Te Huna, this is an opportunity of a lifetime to not only win in front of the Australian fans, but also propel him up the 205lb division.
"Shoguns' in the Top Ten for sure and a win against him will put me straight up there."
And while title aspirations are in his sights with a win on Friday, Te Huna is going to soak this moment in, as this is one of the biggest milestones in his career.
"It's an honor to share the cage with him this weekend. It's going to be huge for me."