Breakdown, Part 2: UFC Rio
Preview by Anthony Springer, Jr.
Before the middleweight title showdown at this Saturday’s UFC 134, two light heavyweights will go head-to-head in a rematch years in the making. They’ll share the marquee with a veteran Brazilian heavyweight and a surging young prospect making a name for himself by dropping legends in their tracks. Let’s take a look at the two other bouts with headlining status, Forrest Griffin vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Brendan Schaub vs. Minotauro Nogueira.
Notable victories: Mirko Cro Cop, Gabriel Gonzaga, Chris Tuchscherer
Keys to victory: Landing a knockout punch
Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira
Notable victories: Josh Barnett, Sergei Kharitonov, Tim Sylvia, Randy Couture
Keys to victory: Out pointing his opponent en route to a decision win or stoppage
Noguiera is a living legend in the sport. A throwback to yesterday that transcended the wave of younger guys who grew up watching him. Lauded for his toughness, Big Nog earned a reputation for delivering exciting fights—often at the expense of his health. Blocking punches with your face was never a strategy for career longevity. That said, “Minotauro” is nearly a shell of the fighter he used to be. He was stopped for the first time by Frank Mir at UFC 92 (a surprising show of striking by Mir, though fans often point to Nog’s staph infection to discredit the win). He was knocked out by current champ Cain Velasquez at UFC 110.
Matched up with a hard punching Schaub could prove to be trouble for Nog, who can’t take a punch like he used to. However, if this turns into a classic standup battle—and it’s likely to—the vet holds a significant advantage in the striking department. Where Schaub likes to hunt for the one hitter quitter, Noguiera is more than a proficient boxer. If he can keep the distance, he’ll have a chance to earn a relatively one sided decision.
The game is changing quickly. Though Schaub is also susceptible to a bomb (see the Roy Nelson fight), the chances of an aging, slower Nog landing that punch are way down. Watch for Schaub to find his range in the early going before separating the more experienced Nog from his senses. No matter what you think about “The Hybrid,” he’s earning his keep as MMA’s version of Randy Orton – The Legend Killer.
Schaub via KO, round 2
. . . .
Forrest Griffin vs. Mauricio “ Shogun” Rua
Notable victories: “Shogun” Rua, Quintin “Rampage” Jackson, Tito Ortiz, Stephan Bonnar
Keys to victory: Grinding out a decision or submission
Notable victories: Quinton Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Alistair Overeem, Chuck Liddell
Throw out everything you know about the 2007 meeting between these two. Griffin is much more experienced and Rua is much more battle worn. However, the question ultimately is who wants it more? Griffin is sounding a lot less motivated to fight these days, while “Shogun’s” mind (though perhaps not his body) is still focused on being the best.
Griffin is a hard one to put down, but in front of a hometown crowd, Rua will shine. Look for him to keep the pressure on Griffin early and often. Saturday night will bring a glimpse of the Rua of yesteryear.
Shogun via KO, round 3.