The second round of the Pride Grand Prix is sure to separate the good fighters from the best fighters and the match-up between Chute Boxe prodigy Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Brazilian Top Team member Antonio Rogerio Nogueira is no exception. Neither fighter was favored to win their first round match, so getting to the second round is a great accomplishment already, but neither man is going to want to settle for one victory in a tournament of champions.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira is a fighter who has come a long way from just being known as the brother of top Pride heavyweight star, Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira. The middleweight contender has gone far beyond proving himself as a tough test for any fighter and currently holds wins over other tournament participants Kazushi Sakuraba, Kazuhiro Nakamura, and Alistair Overeem.
Although the Brazilian holds wins over many top fighters and his only loss came by the way of a decision to Vladimir Matyushenko, he was the heavy underdog when it was announced he would face Team Quest stand-out Dan Henderson in the first round of the Grand Prix. Nogueira came into the fight prepared to walk out a winner and in doing so surprised the smaller Henderson right from the offset of the match. Henderson looked somewhat slow and winded being pushed by the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu expert and while still trying to get out of the first round, Henderson was caught with a beautiful armbar and was forced to tapout to Nogueira.
Many fans were shocked to watch Henderson eliminated as he was a favorite to get to the finals and with the win Antonio Rogerio Nogueira became a new face to watch in the Grand Prix. On the same night that Nogueira was able to defeat Henderson, Chute Boxe fighter Mauricio “Shogun” Rua walked into a very similar situation as a heavy underdog to Pride veteran, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
Jackson was looking for his shot to get the finals and possibly another fight with Rua’s teammate Wanderlei Silva, but he may have looked past “Shogun” and he paid for it on that night. Rua followed Silva’s lessons in how to beat Jackson and worked his muay thai clinch throughout the round. Jackson felt the effect of Rua’s knees and punches and soon crumbled under the pressure. With that, Mauricio Rua secured a win over another of the pre-tournament favorites and kept his dream of becoming the Grand Prix champion alive.
In a fight that will see the ultimate clash of styles when a master of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu faces off against a muay thai kickboxer, this match-up could be one of the best fights of the night. For Mauricio Rua to win this fight he will need to do everything in his power to keep the fight on the feet. His stand-up is extremely dangerous and Nogueira is sure to know that. Rua is a very straight ahead fighter and he is always aggressive in his fights. Rua will need to keep the distance to start the fight and move in for a clinch and work for knees to slow down Nogueira. Rua’s biggest weakness may be that his endurance has not been tested in some time and if this fight goes the distance, it may favor the Brazilian Top Team member.
Nogueira’s strategy will be almost the exact opposite of Rua’s as he will work his hardest to get this fight to the ground. Nogueria’s takedowns aren’t anything spectacular so he may need to engage with Rua to be able to secure a bodylock or attempt a takedown, but in doing so, he will need to protect himself at all times to prevent Rua from unleashing a barrage of punches and knees to his cranium. Nogueira’s biggest asset going into this fight is that he has been able to fight other strikers such as Alistair Overeem and walk out victorious. Nogueira has a very strong chin and may be able to sustain more damage than many other fighters could without going down, and take the fight to the ground where he could submit Rua.
This fight has the potential to be one of the most exciting or possibly one of the most uneventful fights on the card, depending on how aggressive or passive the fighters are showing respect to the other’s skills. If Mauricio “Shogun” Rua wins this fight, the critics who jumped on his bandwagon after the Jackson victory will be glowing in the fact that Rua very well may be the dark horse to win the tournament. With a win, Rua will also paint a huge target on his back as fighters will start to see the true threat that he poses to anyone trying to win the tournament.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira has all the tools necessary to win the Grand Prix and this may just be the next step to an eventual championship. His ground skills are only rivaled in this tournament by fellow Brazilian Top Team fighter, Ricardo Arona. Nogueira has one of the best chances to win it all because he is an extremely well rounded fighter and that will always give good results in a tournament when so many styles are represented.
Nogueira and Rua are set to battle it out in the second round of the Pride Grand Prix on June 26th in Japan.