antonio-rodrigo-nogueira

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira says he’s feeling great after his UFC 102 victory over Randy Couture, and he’s hoping to fight again soon, with the goal of getting a shot at UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.

“They asked me to fight in December,” Nogueira said. “I’m ready. … I’m going to be in shape in December. i don’t know who I’m going to fight, but my goal is to fight Brock Lesnar for the heavyweight title. He’s big but I think I’ve got better skills than him.”

Putting on my Joe Silva matchmaker thinking cap, the fight that would make the most sense for the UFC is putting Nogueira in a rematch of his 2003 battle with Mirko Cro Cop — but only if Cro Cop first beats Nogueira’s friend and training partner Junior dos Santos at UFC 103. A Nogueira-Cro Cop fight, with the winner getting a shot at the Lesnar-Shane Carwin winner, would be great.

If Cro Cop loses, however, things get trickier. Nogueira vs. dos Santos won’t happen because of their friendship. Nogueira wants a rematch with Frank Mir, who beat him last year, but Mir is scheduled to fight Cheick Kongo in December. Cain Velasquez would make sense as an opponent for Nogueira, but he’s fighting Ben Rothwell on October 24 and presumably wouldn’t be ready to fight again in December.

I actually think it’s possible that Nogueira could fight the Carwin-Lesnar winner without having to win another fight, although I think it’s more likely he’ll first fight Cro Cop, Velasquez or Mir. In any case, that great victory over Couture put Nogueira on the fast track to title contention.

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This subject got me to thinking after Nog’s win tonight why exactly he has a perceived high “milage” as a fighter and how that compares to Brock Lesnar’s.

There is no doubt that Nogueira has been in some wars in the ring and cage which were classic fights but he is only 33 which is young when compared to Couture. Lesnar is not far behind Noguiera being 32 but maybe since he is relatively new to mma as a professional he’s thought to be younger but let’s look at how these two have gotten to where they’re at now.

Imo the first real battle Noqueira was in was against Heath Herring for the Pride Heavyweight belt at Pride 17 in late 2001. The following year he endured a beating from Bob Sapp but went on to win the fight. He also had two battles with Fedor which went to decisions, took a beating on his feet from Cro-Cop before pulling another win out, and a decision loss later avenged to Josh Barnett before moving on to the UFC.

Nearly at the same time Nogueira was going to war with Herring in Pride, Brock Lesnar was entering the WWE as a main eventer. While in the WWE for roughly 3 years he endured all the falls and injuries associated with rasslin’ and a travel schedule that is no way comparable to any mma fighter and likely no other athletes. He traveled for up to 300 days a year, had both knees torn up, back and neck problems and wrestled with a blown MCL and 3 broken ribs for 6 months because he had just became champion. He later tried a venture into the NFL then New Japan Pro Wrestling before dedicating himself to mma at roughly the same time Nogueira was entering the UFC.

So their age isn’t much different but Nogueira imo is still perceived to be more worn down and closer to the end of his career than Lesnar. I’m not so sure he is. Being a Nogueira fan since his Pride days it would make a great story for him to match up against Lesnar and get the UFC belt but I think the odds would be against him realistically and I would hate to see him take a beating like Mir did. I think a rematch with Mir would be a good match for a healthy, re-focused Nogueira and if he was able to avenge that loss than maybe a rubber match after.

Beyond that I’d like to see him retire and go out a winner instead of taking beating after beating against younger guys, having a somewhat tarnished legacy and not knowing when it was time hang them up.

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