Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira looks to continue to build momentum after his August decision victory against Randy Couture. After overcoming rough moments in wins over Heath Herring and Tim Sylvia, he suffered a setback in his December '08 loss to Frank Mir (though it is heavily rumored that he took that fight at far less than 100%). However, he seems to have regained his footing in the UFC's heavyweight division. So what "Minotauro" will we see on Saturday night? At 33-years-old, he's not exactly old. But he's put tons of wear and tear on his body when you consider the battles that he's been through. Having had plenty of time off, I expect him to come in to this fight ready to make a statement. Look for him to test the submission defense of Velasquez early. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira has a professional record of 32-5-1 with three wins coming by way of knockout and nineteen wins coming by way of submission. The combined career winning percentage of the opponents that he has faced is 68.2%.
I joined the bandwagon of former standout collegiate wrestler Cain Velasquez approximately 18 months ago. Having said that, I'll be the first to admit that he's got some areas of his game that need work (not to mention some that are still big question marks). It is inevitable that he will, at some point, slip and prove himself to be human. The question before us now is: will that be this Saturday night? Cain quickly became a celebrated prospect early into his professional MMA career and he has flashed a lot of potential, especially when one considers that he hasn't exactly had the easiest slate of opponents. In his bout victory over Cheick Kongo, he did display some vulnerability, if not a measure of heart as well. After his second round destruction of veteran Ben Rothwell in October, I'm really anxious to see how Cain responds to facing a truly elite heavyweight for the first time in his career. Cain Velasquez has a professional record of 7-0 with six wins coming by way of knockout and no wins coming by way of submission. The combined career winning percentage of the opponents that he has faced so far in his career is 72.3%.
Nogueira has solid striking. Not spectacular, but solid. He doesn't move quite as well as he used to so it shouldn't be too hard for Velasquez to walk him down should he choose to do so. As we saw in Cain's fight with Kongo, however, he may want to be selective and cautious in coming forward too much. Nog is capable of throwing some sharp counter shots. As far as Cain's striking goes, he's supposedly a quick learner. He can be a dangerous striker, despite criticism that he has received for being unable to finish Kongo with strikes from dominant position. They say that with striking it is easier to learn offense early on and that it takes far longer to become competent at defense (which is, according to many, the exact opposite of what one experiences when learning grappling). That said, Cain is supposedly not as polished on the feet as Nogueira and should be careful to pick his spots and make it count when he has opportunities, all the while keeping his guard up as much as possible. Obviously, he must also take care when on the mat with Nogueira. Nog is deceptively strong and is capable of sweeping or slapping on a submission at any moment, particularly in transition. Here we go: New Guard vs. Old Guard. Enjoy this one, boys and girls. This is the fight that I am most looking forward to on this card. My head is telling me that Nogueira has at least this one big win left in him and that he will catch his inexperienced opponent with a submission. I've come this far with Velasquez, however, and my gut is telling me that he will find a way. Here goes nothing. My prediction: Cain Velasquez by decision.