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'Nog' wants Lesnar now

Report by Andreas Hale
Photo by Joe Cordova

In front of 16,088 rabid fans packed into the Rose Garden in Portland, two legends clashed in a fight that was considered long overdue. In the end, Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira defeated Randy “The Natural” Couture by unanimous decision (judges saw it 30-27 twice and 29-28) in a fight that eclipsed many fans lofty expectations and became an instant classic.

Although the Rose Garden had a decidedly pro-Couture crowd (due to Couture being from Oregon), Nogueira wouldn’t flinch under pressure and went toe to toe with Captain America from the opening bell in a battle that will go down in UFC history as a classic. The Brazilian heavyweight dominated for most of the fight with highlights including several near finishes where he either dropped Couture with punches or nearly secured a submission.

But Couture would not go down without a fight. The former heavyweight and light heavyweight champ endured troubled waters in each of the three rounds yet managed to show the heart of a champion as he would not only survive being tapped or KO-ed, but would come back swinging to get the already raucous crowd behind him.

“I thought he was done ten times,” White said during the post fight press conference regarding whether or not he though Couture was finished. “I thought he was done when Nog put the submission on him. I thought he was done when Nog got the mount. Like ten times I thought he was done and he wasn’t. That was a great fight. It lived up to the hype.”

“I tried different submissions to finish him off,” said Nogueira about what was going through his mind when he couldn’t finish off Captain America. “I was prepared for everything. I know it was a tough fight and I was prepared for it.”

For “Minotauro” this victory provided him vindication after his lackluster performance against Frank Mir where he was TKO-ed and his future in MMA was in doubt.

“For most of the people when they say you’re done you have to come back and prove you’re still in the game and can make good fights,” Nogueira said. “For sure this fight was one of the most important fight in my life. It wasn’t a title shot but it was against a legend in this sport.”

Now the question is “Who’s next?”

Dana White didn’t have an answer immediately but he did say that this fight breathed even more life into a very competitive division.

“The heavyweight division is exciting right now,” Dana White said about future prospects for both Couture and Nogueira. “There are a lot of young blood in that division - obviously including the heavyweight champion (Brock Lesnar). I think there’s a lot of fun things we can do.”

As for Couture, he revealed that he will indeed be in the Octagon again.

“We just signed a contract today,” Couture said regarding his future in the UFC which ensures that we will see Captain America in the Octagon again. “28 months, six more fights.”

It looks like the 46-year-old Captain America will be back and battling in legendary fights again in the very near future.

While the Couture Vs Nogueira fight was a knockdown, drag out brawl, the rest of the main card - which was stuffed with intriguing matches - was filled with shocking and early finishes.

“On paper this card looked really good,” White said when asked by how this card stacked up against previous UFC cards. “There were a lot of fights that could have gone either way. Most of the fights I thought were going to be wars or tough match-ups and ended up being over real quick. Almost to the point where if you didn’t know anything about the sport and were just beginning to watch it you would think ‘Wow! This is a mismatch’ against guys that we know are tough durable fighters.”

One of the shockers was Nate Marquardt’s highlight reel :21 second knockout of previously unbeaten Jiu-Jitsu specialist Demian Maia. Nate “The Great” uncorked a massive right hand as Maia tried an ill fated head kick that sent the Brazilian crashing to the canvas.

“Definitely,” Marquardt said when asked if the finish to the Maia fight is one of his best. “It was definitely a highlight reel finish.”

When asked White if he expected that type of finish in one of the marquee middleweight bouts, White affirmed he knew how it would play out.

“I said that if Demian Maia can’t get this to the ground he’s going to be in big trouble. I didn’t think he was going to stand up well against Nate Marquardt,” he said.

Although brilliant in victory, Marquardt isn’t guaranteed a rematch to avenge his loss against pound for pound king Anderson Silva for the middleweight belt - at least not right now. There is the possibility that Marquardt may face Dan Henderson, who some expect to be next in line for Silva.

“He looked great tonight. It was an unbelievable shot and he looked great. I have to sit back and think about that one,” White stated.

“I don’t really care who I fight next,” Marquardt said about his future. “I want to fight the best. I feel like I’ll get my shot when it’s my time. It doesn’t have to be next but whenever it is, that’s cool.”

The other surprising finish was Thiago Silva’s 95 second destruction of Keith Jardine. Yet another intriguing match up ended swiftly when Silva smacked Jardine with a counter left hook and then pounced and pounded Jardine unconscious. The victory proves that Silva is back and shows that his recent loss to Lyoto Machida shouldn’t count him out as an over hyped fighter.

“Thiago is a beast,” White said regarding Silva’s knockout performance. “We all know how tough and durable of an opponent Keith Jardine is. Realistically, his only loss is to a guy who is considered one of the world’s pound-for-pound best. There’s a lot of interesting match-ups for him.”

The light heavyweight shuffle is an interesting one. But Dana White is sure that Silva will get a bout soon against somebody at the top of the 205 lbs food chain.

In the end, UFC 102 had it all - spectacular knockouts, awesome submissions and a legendary fight that lived up to all of the expectations.

UFC 102 Bonuses ($60k to each fighter)

Knockout of the Night - Nate Marquardt
Submission of the Night - Jake Roshold
Fight of the Night - Randy Couture Vs Antonio Noguiera




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