UFC 134’s Fighter of the Night award was a bit more difficult to select this time around. With great story lines behind each fighters on the card, the choice came down to who dealt with the most adversity going into and during their respected bouts.
That being said, the honor of Fighter of the Night by a slim margin goes to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
“Big Nog” lived up the first word of his nickname and came through “big” when few expected him to. Going into the fight, the Brazilian heavyweight was a massive underdog to Brendan Schaub due to coming off of surgeries that kept him out of action for a year-and-a-half.
“I just had surgery on my hip eight months ago,” Nogueira said in a post-fight interview with the UFC. “I was walking on crutches for four months.”
Fresh off the crutches, Nogueira jumped right back into training for his fight with Schaub and competed against a fighter with quick, heavy hands. Judging by the way Nogueira took shots in his fight against Cain Velasquez at UFC 110 in February of 2010, it seemed likely that the former Pride heavyweight champion would have nearly the same risk against Schaub. A few moments in the fight appeared to give more truth to this idea.
Schaub’s uppercut was working. The up-and-comer out of Denver landed the strike on more than one occasion and Nogueira’s reactions gave the impression that a couple more would put the legend away. The obvious thing to do would to continue looking for the right moments to throw the uppercut, and that’s what Schaub did. Unfortunately for him, his opponent got wise to the game-plan and timed a perfect one-two combination just as Schaub was gearing up for a right uppercut.
A few strikes later, it was all she wrote.
Nogueira put away Schaub by knockout and laid to rest the idea that his career is over. As a matter of fact, it seems he’s prepared to come full circle. With a win coming out of his first pro fight in Brazil, “Big Nog” is excited to return to his old stomping grounds of Japan where he dominated heavyweights for years as a premier fighter in Pride Fighting Championships.
“When they have a fight in February in Japan, I’ll be ready to fight over there,” Nogueira said.
Revisiting Pride in Japan would be an epic way to follow up a win in Brazil, especially after performing the way he did and earning MMAWeekly.com’s Fighter of the Night award.
Dr. Jekyll “Shogun” showed up in Brazil last night, leaving Mr. Hyde’s tired and unconditioned form at home.
For three months, Rua spent his training camp in Southern California with his old Chute Boxe coach, Rafael Cordiero. The 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix champion was eager to bring in a worthy MMA coach after losing the light heavyweight title to Jon Jones in March. With Cordeiro, Rua got just that. Rua’s focus returned as Cordeiro stood behind him again, and a prime athlete shook off all of his rust, showing enormous ferocity capable of chopping down the tallest of trees.
Last night in Rio, Forrest Griffin was that tree.
Having lost to Griffin in his UFC debut at UFC 76 in 2007, many wondered if history would repeat itself for “Shogun.” Some experts still picked Griffin to top Rua based on the Brazilian’s up-and-down performances since being with the UFC. However, UFC Rio was the stage to prove his loss to Griffin wouldn’t happen again. And wouldn’t you know it, Rua got his revenge.
In the moments just before the fight ended, “Shogun” swarmed in on Griffin and closed the gap, preventing the Las Vegas-based fighter from mounting any type of formidable offense. Rua’s relentless pursuit of Griffin paid off as he hammer fisted his opponent into a catatonic state, leaving no question as to who would walk away the winner in Rio.
Payback was delivered and Rua already cashed the check, hands raised. With this, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua comes in a close second for Fighter of the Night and earns the honorable mention.
Worth a Mention: Look out for Erick Silva
So many people talk about the UFC’s welterweight division and how it’s one of the most talent-blessed divisions in all of mixed martial arts. Last night in Rio, a massive audience witnessed the coming of another 170-pound jewel in Jungle Fight welterweight champion Erick Silva.
Very little is known about Silva, but at 13-1 with 1 NC, the 27-year-old fighter has trounced most of the men he has faced, finding submission victories to be his drink of choice. At UFC Rio, Silva cocked back and threw a fastball in the form of a punch, knocking out Luis Ramos in the first round of their undercard bout. Had it not been for Nogueira’s unexpected knockout of Brendan Schaub, Silva might have won UFC Knockout of the Night honors in his promotional debut.
Not bad for a guy who’s never fought in the UFC. Look out for him to see what kind of damage he does in the future.