It will be the fine-tuned but high-mileage technique of MMA legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira versus the inexperienced but exceptionally athletic Brendan Schaub in heavyweight action at UFC 134: Rio.
What can you say about Big Nog? I'm comfortable enough with my manhood and innocent intentions to freely admit that I would give the guy a hug if I ever met him in person. He's such a likable and respectful icon who has graced the combat sports world with one emotional and moving performance after another, and he's a big reason I'm such a passionate MMA fan.
Bob Sapp lifts him up like a grappling dummy and pile-drives his head through the canvas. CroCop kicks him around the ring like an empty tin can. Tim Sylvia plays paddle-ball with his face. The verdict? A jump-off-the-couch, come-from-behind Hail Mary submission victory for the sheepishly smiling "Minotauro".
Not surprisingly, playing the human punching bag and clawing back from the brink of defeat is not an advisable long term strategy. In Nogueira's five Octagon showings -- despite winning three -- he's been pummeled by everyone but Randy Couture. Heath Herring's kick dropped him and left him with a "did I leave the iron on?" look before he pulled off another miraculous turn-around; Tim Sylvia was landing at will before Nog turned the tide after hitting his trademark sweep; Frank Mir and Cain Velasquez left him no opportunities to recover.
With four wins preceding and four after, the perfectly timed haymaker from Roy Nelson marks the epicenter of Brendan Schaub's career. "Big Country" served up the knockout at the TUF 10 finale, but Schaub silenced any doubters with his unquestionable prowess in dominant defeats of Chase Gormley, Chris Tuchscherer, Gabriel Gonzaga and Mirko Filipovic.
Only one foe has ever survived to a decision against him (Gonzaga), only one other made it past the first round (Mirko), and the rest were viciously steam-rolled in the first round in violent strike-stoppages. Beating such a praiseworthy list of experienced heavyweights so early in his career is a true testament to Schaub's god-given talent and natural fighting instincts.
I'll speculate whether or not Nog's got another miracle after the break. Make sure to check out Kid Nate's technical comparison over at MMANation.
When fused with his unparalleled strength-to-agility ratio, Schaub gets maximum results from the bare-bone basics.
Keeping his chin tucked and head protected, he stays on balance and shuffles forward while marauding with a hail of jackhammers.
What he lacks in fluent technique he makes up for with visceral aggression and powerful brawling, generally delivered through in-fighting or dirty boxing in the clinch.
He's never been taken down and is rarely placed in a compromised position, and I think we can all agree that the only conceivable way Nog gets on top is with a knockdown or a sweep.
To the left versus Gonzaga we get a good glimpse of how Schaub is far from unskilled. He's showing nice, tight form in his punches and using solid footwork.
However, it's obvious that the venom lies in his voracious onslaught of huge punches and the fury with which he unleashes them.
Using the time clock in the animation, he rattles off five heat-seaking strikes and covers a good amount of ground in just two seconds. That's a lot of pelting offense crammed into a few ticks.
To the right he walks down Gonzaga and drenches him with leather.
At this point, he smells the kill and has no respect for Gonzaga's stand up, and lays it on thick with a torrent of one-twos.
Note how Schaub manages to pump his jab in to set up his right and then transitions to cupping Gonzaga's head with the collar tie to dirty box.
He's propelled by an unremitting determination and a physical caliber that few can match.
Big Nog has great boxing technique, but where he'll get in trouble is his lack of power and footwork.
He pieces together accurate combinations with tight punches, but if you compare these animations, it's apparent that Schaub doesn't want to stand and trade -- he wants to load the cannon and run people over.
Nog's "finesse over force" style of fighting would have to be tweaked with a serious dash of quickness or defense to keep him afloat with Schaub.
Knowing that there are no shortcuts on the ground against an otherworldly grappler like Nog, I'm assuming that Schaub will merely look to corner and clobber. Nog's boxing was an excellent complement to his BJJ but I don't think his stand up alone is stout enough to last three rounds with a hulking head-hunter like Schaub.
Shaking my fist bitterly at the society from whence it came, I'll succumb to maturity and relent on picking a personal favorite like Nog no matter who he's fighting. He's old; this is a bad match up. Cutting his rehab short to appear on the card doesn't bode well either.
My Prediction: Brendan Schaub by TKO
Gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com