Still a Star? Nogueira Talks Cain Velasquez, His Future, and Fedor by Gary Herman Gary Herman
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Written on February 08, 2010 Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images Vote Now! - Author Poll
Will Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira be able to defeat Cain Velasquez?
Yes No vote to see results Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira looked terrible against Frank Mir.
However, eight months after that fight, Nogueira looked like one of the top mixed martial artists on the planet in dominating Randy Couture. Nogueira won a clear-cut unanimous decision against the UFC legend.
So which “Big Nog” can we expect to see in the future?
The answer will be revealed very shortly at UFC 110 on Saturday, February 20. Nogueira is set to step into the cage against an undefeated fighter many observers feel is a huge part of the heavyweight future, Cain Velasquez.
Velasquez, the two-time All-American wrestler at Arizona State University, has ripped off seven straight victories to start his career. Of the seven wins, only one man (Cheick Kongo) even made it to the scorecards. The other six fighters all fell by TKO.
But none of the men Velasquez defeated have anything close to the career accolades of Nogueira. Besides Kongo, Velasquez’s biggest win was against former IFL star Ben Rothwell.
On the other hand, Nogueira is the only man to hold heavyweight championships in both Pride FC and the UFC. He’s beaten proven MMA stars like Mirko Cro Cop, Josh Barnett, and Dan Henderson.
The match-up between Nogueira and Velasquez will be a true test of where each fighter stands today and for the future.
“I’m very excited for the fight,” Nogueira said about the upcoming match-up. “Wherever it goes, I’ll be ready.”
Nogueira is widely known for being one of the best submissions fighters in the history of the sport. With Velasquez being a top-level wrestler, Nogueira could find himself on his back early on.
“If he takes me down, we’re going for submissions,” Nogueira said. “My jiu-jitsu will be 100 percent.”
The Brazilian star understands that takedowns are a big part of Velasquez’s skill set. To prepare, Nogueira has enlisted the help of two All-American wrestlers–Strikeforce light heavyweight Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal and UFC middleweight Mark Munoz.
“King Mo is one the best wrestlers in America,” Nogueira said. “We do a lot of single leg and double leg defense. I have a very good camp here.”
Should Nogueira defeat Velasquez, he’ll likely be in line for another shot at the heavyweight title. With the Frank Mir vs. Shane Carwin winner slated to face Brock Lesnar sometime this summer, Nogueira would likely have to wait until fall of 2010 to receive the chance.
Nogueira is highly interested in fighting for the title, but he has not forgotten about his poor performance against Mir. Mir laid a two round beating on the former champion in December 2008. Nogueira also does not like Mir’s constant trash-talking.
“If I fight against Mir, it will be different. I’ll be in better shape and no injuries,” Nogueira said, alluding to the rumor that he had a staph infection just prior to the fight.
“I don’t like how Mir talks. I come from jiu-jitsu. I come from martial arts. I train hard, and I respect my opponent. I will never say anything bad about my opponent. My opponent works hard so that’s my way. I don’t think he shows respect.”
Another man in the heavyweight title picture is Nogueira’s teammate Junior Dos Santos.
As a top prospect in the UFC, Dos Santos is even more accomplished than Velasquez. He has won 10 of 11 fights, and he defeated MMA stars Mirko Cro Cop, Gilbert Yvel, and Fabricio Werdum along the way.
“Never,” Nogueira said, when asked if he would ever fight Dos Santos. “To me, that would be like fighting my brother (current UFC fighter Antonio Rogerio Nogueira). No money would be worth it to fight one of my best friends.”
While Nogueira battles at heavyweight, his identical twin brother campaigns in the light heavyweight division. Nogueira gives a simple explanation as to why.
“I don’t want to be competitive with my brother,” Nogueira said. “I was always a little bigger than him–maybe 12 pounds. He can make 205.”
Prior to joining the UFC, Nogueira had a very successful stint in Pride FC over in Japan. However, one man Nogueira could not defeat in three attempts was consensus top heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko.
Over the past few years, Emelianenko was heavily rumored to be joining the UFC, but no deal ever came to fruition.
“That’s his choice,” Nogueira said about Emelianenko’s decision to sign with Strikeforce. “He doesn’t want to come and join the UFC show? Some other guy will. The UFC has the best heavyweights. If he comes to the UFC, he’s going to face the best guys.”
Nogueira and Emelianenko last fought almost five years ago when Nogueira was 28. Now 33 and a veteran of 38 fights, Nogueira has dismissed any talk of retirement.
“I think I could fight until 37,” Nogueira said. “I’m in really good shape. I’ll fight until my body tells me I can’t.”
The upcoming fight will go a long way in showing Nogueira exactly where his body is. Is he the fighter that was dominated by Mir? Or is he the warrior that took apart Couture?
Nogueira will certainly find out the answers against Velasquez at UFC 110.
In predicting the fight, Nogueira stopped short of declaring victory, but he did promise a memorable match-up.
“I feel good," he said. "I’m going to do the best show possible.”
interesting wordsabout Mir, really interesting about how WHEN Fedor comes to the UFC he will have to fight the top HWs....