An opportunity of a lifetime hung in the balance for Paul Craig in Saturday’s co-main event tilt with former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. The beautiful city of Sao Paulo served as the backdrop for UFC Fight Night 164, where a journeyman came face-to-face with a beloved MMA legend.
Craig (12-4) was coming off a submission victory over Vinicius Moreira back in September at UFC Fight Night 159. Not only did the victory serve as a bounce-back performance after a jarring knockout loss to Alonzo Menifield, but it marked his fourth win under the UFC banner and brought his overall UFC record up to 4-4.
Over the last few months, he has clocked more time in the octagon than a blue collar worker at a factory. Saturday night’s bout with Rua was his fourth fight since March. In the three years he’s been with the UFC, he has bagged four Performance of the Night bonuses.
Rua (26-11) came into the fight off an impressive TKO victory over Tyson Pedro. It was the emphatic statement he needed to remind the MMA world that he wasn’t quite ready to ride off into the sunset after getting stopped by Anthony Smith with a first round knockout over a year ago.
That lone hiccup in five fights separated the win over Pedro from standout victories over Corey Anderson, Gian Villante and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
However, there have been lingering questions of whether inactivity would eventually come back to bite the 37-year-old legend. Saturday’s bout against Craig was his first since December 2018, and he was stepping into the cage with a jiu-jitsu ace that has twisted limbs into more knots than Auntie Anne’s pretzel company.
But there were no knots tied in this fight.
Rua survived some vicious early striking exchanges and utilized takedowns and ground-and-pound to outwork Craig in the second round. Then Craig came storming back out for the strong third-round finish which resulted in the fight being rendered a split-draw. Pros took to Twitter to react to the controversial decision.
In an additional cruel twist of fate, this is a style matchup that favors Shogun.— Luke Thomas (@lthomasnews) November 17, 2019
Dude's absorbed a Hiroshima atom bomb blast worth of damage, but he'll be competitive until he's 70.
Craig looked good round 1 but man. I think Shogun got it #UFCSP— Niko Price (@Nikohybridprice) November 17, 2019
Good luck @ShogunRua— glover teixeira (@gloverteixeira) November 17, 2019
I wonder if shogun would come to London #ufcsp— JIMI MANUWA (@POSTERBOYJM) November 17, 2019
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