Friday, August 28, 2009

Fight Week Previews: Randy Couture vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

Maybe this fight really isn't getting the hype it deserves?

Randy "The Natural " Couture and Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira are two of the greatest heavyweights of all-time. Between them, they've held eight major organizational titles, fought some of the best ever and are two of the most iconic figures the sport has to offer.

While it certainly would have been more intriguing if this fight took place when both were at the height of their dominance, anywhere between three and five years ago, Saturday night's Main Event is still a worthy headliner with a great deal at stack for both men.

Randy "The Natural" Couture (16-9-0) vs. Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira (31-5-1, 1 NC)

At the level these two are at, where they train goes out the window. While both Xtreme Couture and Black House are top level teams, these two warriors have been doing this long enough that they know what it takes to prepare for a fight and come ready for war each and every time.

D'you want to know something insane?

This will be the first time since his 2005 fight against Mike Van Arsdale that Randy Couture hasn't been fighting for a title. Of his last 16 fights, 15 of them have been scheduled for five rounds with gold on the line.

Without a doubt, Couture will be ready to go the full 15 if needed.

As will Nogueira, who has made a career of being in battles and weathering storms until an opportunity for the win presents itself. In each of his two UFC victories, "Minotauro" was rocked and looked like he was going to be finished before emerging on the other side with his hand raised.

Stylistically, this fight could prove very interesting.

Nogueira is the best heavyweight jiu jitsu player in the history of Mixed Martial Arts. His anaconda choke of Heath Herring back in his Pride heyday was outstanding, as was the armbar that made Cro Cop tap.

In addition to his BJJ proficiency, Noguiera has solid boxing and Muay Thai, though he hasn't displayed the latter a great deal since moving to the UFC.

On the other side of ring, you have a superior wrestler who is also a strong boxer, although Couture and Nogueira offer very different technique. While "Minotauro" is more technical, "Captain America" likes to get inside and dirty box, utilizing his elbows in addition to his fists.

Coming off the first stoppage loss of his career, Nogueira should be looking to bring this fight to the floor, as Couture possess more power in his punches than Frank Mir.

While going to the ground isn't the worst thing for Couture, as he has great ground and pound and strong submission defense, keeping this fight standing would make more sense. Getting caught in a submission is harder when you're flicking out jabs and landing overhand rights from distance.

Now this is where things get interesting.

Both men have fought some serious competition over their careers; in addition to the Liddell Trilogy, Couture has locked up with the likes of Tito Ortiz, Vitor Belfort and Pedro Rizzo, while Nogueira has had his own trilogy fights with Fedor Emelianenko and Heath Herring, as well as battles with Dan Henderson and Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic.

But when you look at the shared opponents, Nogueira comes out way ahead of "The Natural." Actually, it's not even close. While both men scored wins over Tim Sylvia, Couture lost to Ricco Rodriguez, Josh Barnett, Valentijn Overeem and Enson Inoue.

Nogueira beat every one of those men, although he is 1-1 versus Barnett, and has faced the tougher heavyweight competition throughout his career.

Neither man likes being introduced as a former champion. Honestly, who would?

For the winner of this fight, a place on the short list of heavyweight contenders awaits, while the loser will suffer a rarity, consecutive defeats. That hasn't happened to Couture since 2002, while a loss Saturday would mark the first time such an event has happened in the career of Nogueira.

Clearly, a lot is at stack here.

Seven days ago, this fight wasn't all that interesting.

After digging around and breaking it down all week, Saturday night can't get here quick enough.

(Pictures courtesy of Evan Shoman. Visit Shoman Art to see the complete collection)

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