clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

UFC 190: Rousey vs. Correia - Toe to Toe Preview to Mauricio Rua vs Antonio Nogueira

New, comments

Phil and David break down everything you need to know about a light heavyweight fight with stakes important only to nostalgia, this August, 1 2015 in Brazil.

Phil MacKenzie

Two former great light heavyweights try to rekindle old magic this August 1, 2015 at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

One sentence summary

David: An irrelevant LHW rematch from one of the most relevant LHW bouts of its era

Phil: The Terminator: Genisys of 205lbs, where little bits of it might remind you of the original's violence and lean brilliance, but mostly it just feels sad and confusing and old.

Stats?

Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua

Record: 22-10

Odds: -190

Antonio Rogerio 'Lil Nog' Nogueira

Record: 21-6

Odds: +165

History / Introduction to the fighters

Phil: Shogun is one of the great stories of lost MMA potential. He had one of the very best years we've seen when he stormed the 2005 Pride Grand Prix, yet afterwards a combination of injuries and weirdly awful performances seemingly bumped him from relevance, until he surged again to take the light heavyweight belt from the then-unbeaten Lyoto Machida... and then promptly plummeted again, settling into a role as a combination of gatekeeper and action fighter as he grew steadily older and older. And he's only 33!

David: Well, but sadly said. Shogun is strange in that his performances really did vary so dramatically at times. The Shogun that fought Machida for the title the first time was clearly not the Shogun that fought Mark Coleman and Forrest Griffin beforehand. And it always seemed like something more than just "injury" to explain away. Whatever voodoo witch doctor he pissed off took it to heart. Or knees, in this case.

Phil: In an odd way I think Shogun's history has benefited from the language gap and the injury narrative. I suspect he might be a bit closer to a BJ Penn (who retains a great deal of personal responsibility for his own problems) than we might think.

Anyway, while he was often looked at in the shade of his brother, Lil' Nog carved out his own impressive career in Pride, including wins over Henderson, Sakuraba and Overeem. When he first came over to the UFC, a blowout win over the then-highly regarded Luis Cane got everyone hyped up. Then he scraped past Jason Brilz, lost snoozers to Bader and Davis. He's still had good performances, and a good win in a bad fight against Rashad, but he's struggled to maintain relevance because he gets injured so much, and he looked wizened and old the last time out.

David: What's weird is that Lil' Nog was not in the wars his older brother was in, yet he's taken some crazy epigenetic descent at exactly the same time as his brother. There's gotta be something to that with what we know about twin science. It would appear that Rogerio was functionally in the cage the night Cain Velasquez skeeballed Big Nog's head.

What are the stakes?

Phil: Whoa, what an existentially brutal thing to ask. What indeed? I guess there's that whoever loses may be granted some significant impetus to retire. Like the aging horse Boxer in Orwell's Animal Farm, they can finally stop working and be carted off to the metaphorical MMA glue factory.

The time had been when a few leg-kicks from Shogun would have smashed the van to matchwood. But alas! His strength had left him; and in a few moments the sound of drumming kicks grew fainter and died away.

Realistically though, they'll probably keep at it. The winner will go "upwards" to get put in a showcase fight against someone like Jimi Manuwa, the loser will go down to get put in a showcase fight against someone like Nikita Krylov or Ilir Latifi.

David: I'm not about to beat that great literary analogy. But I'm also just depressed now. Latifi could theoretically beat them both, and Krylov may actually win a round against one of them. It was only yesterday that Lil Nog was beating Alistair Overeem on the feet after Shogun went rollerblading all over Kanehara's face. Right? Right???

Phil: Time comes for us all. Embrace the sorrow.

Where do they want it?

Phil: Nogueira and Shogun both made changes to their games when coming over to the UFC, either as a reaction to the more wrestling-centric western approach to MMA, or just as a natural evolution of their styles. Nogueira has worked far more on shoring up his takedown defense, developing a strong basic sprawl and distance management game. It's slowed his boxing volume, as he tends to stand a bit further on the outside.

Shogun, conversely, has leaned on his offensive grappling for much of his UFC tenure. While people tend to think of him as being the Muay Thai beast of old, he's been much more about winging crude, powerful hooks and overhands, getting to the clinch and dumping opponents from the double unders, then punching them some more as they stand up. His MT does occasionally resurface at odd times, where he can look crisp and much-improved (against Machida the first time, and against Henderson the second). It's extremely sporadic, however, and it makes sense to assume that we'll see it less as he gets ever-older. There's a good chance that at this point it's disappeared entirely.

David: The problem with Lil Nog is that his game peaked too early. He was so well rounded so early that he never had the chance to mold technique into tactic. He's obviously a well rounded fighter, but reacting to the fluidity of a full fledged mixed martial arts fight at the highest levels eludes him. After losing to Sokoudjou, who did he even beat? Rashad Evans? Did that fight even happen?

Facetiousness aside, Lil Nog probably still has the ability to surprise. His right hook is funny looking, but that thing lands like clockwork. It's the punch that put Shogun down, so it'll be interesting to see if patterns from the first bout shape patterns in the rematch.

For Shogun, it's all about timing. His technique has always been lacking, but that guy can uncork an overhand right like nobody's business. At this point, we all know his ground game was always his secret weapon, but I'd prefer to chalk up his success to olfactory brilliance. Shogun just has a nose for violently executed opportunity.

Insight from past fights?

Phil: When these guys fought the first time, common consensus was that Nog needed to take it to the ground against Shogun, who was considered something of the "striker with no ground game" archetype. Instead, the fight ended up being a technical brawl which went absolutely everywhere, with Shogun generally being the grappling aggressor, and it was an all-time classic. Is it too much to hope that we get a slower-paced version of that? Some kind of Big Nog/Couture where the levels of deterioration match up almost perfectly to make for a great fight?

David: I love the first fight. But it was a crash course in where pedigree and the illusion of potential meet. Hyping up Lil Nog's striking because he participated in the Pan Ams sounds great if you're trying to impress your fellow redditors, but it doesn't impress the mixed martial arts milieu. Granted, I feel like I'm one superlative away from saying Lil Nog's elbows are too pointy, but you get where I'm going. Despite the one big knockdown, Lil Nog got outstruck because his output wanes when his brain has to calculate shifts in the fight. Still a great match though. I thought Shogun was the clear winner though.

Phil: Yep. Like Bonnar-Griffin, I think the closeness of the fight is overstated in order for everyone to feel like they were "both" winners.

X-Factors?

Phil: Apart from the fact that both men are withered shells of their former selves? I dunno. Submission games? It'd be kind of awesome to see Rogerio bust out the old armbar, or Shogun go for one of his infamous but not-actually-very-practical leglocks.

David: Big Nog. If Rodrigo wins, Rogerio wins. It's science.

Prognostication?

Phil: This fight has a number of interesting dynamics at play- Shogun's increased focus on takedowns vs Nog's improved TDD; Nogueira is probably the superior boxer, and as Shogun's MT has drained away this might tilt the fight towards Nogueira's lower volume and shorter range style. However, in a fight between old and faded fighters, Shogun appears to be the one who retains one solitary physical gift: power. Shogun Rua by TKO, round 2

David: Nog may have superior mechanics, but he does not have the superior efficiency on the feet. Although Shogun has definitely faded himself, so who really knows what this bout will look like. I tend to be slightly optimistic though. Both guys have had ample time to cool down, and are probably itching to fight intelligently, but actively in front of their countrymen. Mauricio Rua by TKO, round 3.