UFC 134 breakdown: Rua vs. Griffin

Mauricio Rua (19-5) vs. Forrest Griffin (18-6)

TV: Pay-per-view

Anxious for his shot at redemption after a stunning submission loss to Griffin in his UFC debut four years ago, “Shogun” returns to his native Brazil with everything to lose.

Rua, 29, is one of the greatest light heavyweight fighters in history. The Pride middleweight grand prix winner and former UFC champion has vanquished Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Chuck Liddell, Lyoto Machida, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Alistair Overeem, Ricardo Arona, Kevin Randleman and Mark Coleman.

If his list of victims is not convincing enough, Rua’s credentials as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and muay thai master make him one of the most feared fighters on the planet.

When “Shogun” is at his best, there are few who can match his skill or intensity. But his performances against Griffin in his UFC debut, Mark Coleman in his second UFC bout and, most recently, Jon Jones have led to question marks surrounding the Brazilian’s health and conditioning. In the cases of his losses to Griffin and Jones, it’s worth noting that Rua was coming off surgeries.

In preparation for this fight, Rua has made wise adjustments to his training camp, spending significant time at Kings MMA in the US, where he has reunited with former coach Rafael Cordeiro and trained with Fabricio Werdum, Wanderlei Silva, Jason Miller and Mark Munoz.

The Curitiba native wants a rematch with Jones and an opportunity to challenge for the title, but he must turn in a spectacular performance against Griffin to silence critics who are weary of his consistency and durability.

Griffin, 32, had a standout 2007-2008 stretch as he submitted Rua in his UFC debut and won a controversial unanimous decision over “Rampage” to claim the UFC light heavyweight title. But back-to-back knockout defeats at the hands of Rashad Evans and Anderson Silva, the latter of which was utterly destructive, led to Griffin’s departure from the list of top contenders in the division.

The Ohio native has since rattled off decision wins over former UFC poster boys Tito Ortiz and Rich Franklin. A third straight win over a legend of Rua’s caliber will undoubtedly propel him back into title contention.

Griffin, a member of Xtreme Couture and Throwdown Training Center in Las Vegas, was recently awarded his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt by submission grappling world champion Robert Drysdale. A rugged scrapper, Griffin is usually content engaging in slugfests, though he desperately needs to take Rua down on Saturday night.

Griffin is tough, but he simply lacks the punching power to threaten foes with his hands. Conversely, “Shogun” is a known knockout artist.

Griffin’s primary advantage is his overwhelming frame. Standing 6-foot-3, he is one of the most physically imposing fighters in the 205-pound class. By utilizing his wrestling and top control, Griffin can wear opponents down.

Griffin’s 2007 win over Rua is often regarded as one of the biggest upsets of all time, and Rua is hell-bent on proving that it was an off-night.

Armed with a lethal striking game and motivated by the support of his home crowd, “Shogun” will bulldoze the American with a stampede of strikes before putting him away with some form of devastating knockout.

Verdict: Rua via KO, Round 1