For long time fans, few moments on the exciting UFC 134: Rio card captured the sheer emotion of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira knocking out Brendan Schaub in yet another miraculous comeback performance. Many fans (including, yes, me) wrote Minotauro off heading into the fight, thinking the legend's time was done. But with some quick work on his feet, the former Pride champion put a temporary stop to the young Schaub's rise.
Now that the emotion of the moment has died down a bit, I'm left asking myself - how exactly did he do it? How did the submission expert knock out the heavy handed young gun?
In this Judo Chop, we'll break it down and see what we can figure out.
Against Schaub, we saw Nogueira display a surprising side of his stand-up game - speed. As fighters age, speed is one of the first things to go, especially when it comes to reaction time. Nogueira however shows surprising speed here, particularly during the exchanges.
Full breakdown, with gifs, in the complete entry.
Gifs by BE reader Grappo.
Here's a good early example of that speed in regards to defense. As the two men come together, Schaub is keeping his lead left hand low, which gives Nog a good opening to connect with a right hand. Before throwing that right, Nog gives a very slight feint with the left to get Schaub thinking the punch is coming from the left side. He then steps in and delivers a nice straight right that catches Schaub clean. Nog does make a mistake here, as he keeps his own left hand low when connecting with the right, allowing Schaub to come back with a counter right hand that connects. But Nog responds very well, ducking and using head movement to avoid Schaub's two follow up punches. That defensive speed and the ability to quickly dodge those inside punches, especially after just being hit, is not something I expected out of Minotauro in this fight, and it allows him to remain in the pocket with Schaub while minimizing damage. This is important for the end of the fight.
He also shows good offensive speed, as you can see here (due to the logo in the corner, the gif is a bit confusing, but it begins with the left hand). At the start of this sequence, Nog is moving forward while Schaub moves back, which was the typical pattern for the fight. But here, Nog quickly takes an extra step forward and throws a very sudden left jab. The punch completely catches Schaub by surprise and lands clean, partly because Schaub continues to carry his hands low. We are seeing the older Nogueira using speed and timing to beat Schaub to the punch. He combines that speed with accuracy to make the most of his punches. He has now showed his ability to move faster than Schaub's hands in both a defensive and offensive setting.
Finally, it all comes together in the fantastic fight-ending combo. As we've seen already, Schaub is keeping his hands a bit low, and Nogueira starts by connecting with a quick left. He follows that up with a big overhand right thrown immediately after the left, and it's this right that really causes the damage. As Nog throws the right, he drops down to his left side a bit, which both gives him more momentum in his punch, and allows him to avoid a counter right from Schaub. As it turns out, Schaub throws an uppercut instead, but he's stunned and off balance and it's a sloppy punch that misses. Nog sees his opening and follows up with the kind of high volume, go for the kill combo we don't normally see from him, throwing an additional 7 punches in the 2 seconds following that overhand right. Part of the reason Nogueira can fully commit to this sequence is because of his previously established ability to avoid Schaub's counters, which will get him out of trouble should Schaub return fire.
Notice how during the exchange Schaub, overwhelmed by the punches, allows his hands to drop and turns his head to the side, giving Nog a clear shot at that chin. On the 6th punch, Nog finds his target, dropping Schaub with a perfectly placed tight left that lands right on the chin. Some quick perfunctory ground and pound ends it.
Technically, Nogueira's exchange is not flawless. Had Schaub's uppercut been on target, Nog's exposed head could have caused him real troubles. He also moves his back foot forward during the exchange, which brings his body more square and costs him both power and defensive options. But he makes up for that with the speed of his initial two punch combo and his punching volume, giving Schaub no time to capitalize on these minor holes.
Brendan Schaub vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira ends with one man outboxing his slower opponent and simply overwhelming him with punches until it proves too much. Which is how a lot of us predicted this fight ending. But few thought it would be Nogueira's hands that caused the damage.