Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was the old dog in his UFC Fight Night Abu Dhabi bout with Roy Nelson at du Arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi on Friday, having several more bouts to his credit and a few more years worth of experience on his watch. But that only lead most to believe this was going to be an old-school match-up of fighters that go for the finish, not to eke out a decision in a sporting contest.
And in that regard, Nogueira and Nelson didn’t disappoint.
Big Nog immediately took the center of the Octagon, looking to box with Nelson. Nelson, however, landed an uppercut and an overhand right that put Nogueira on the mat early. The Brazilian quickly returned to his feet, but looked wobbly as Nelson carefully moved forward, again trying to find a home for his powerful right hand. Nogueira countered by employing his jab and footwork to give him time to recover.
Nelson didn’t’ shy away though, landing a jab and an overhand right that rocked Nogueira again. Nelson followed with another shot that put Nogueira on the canvas again. But again, he returned to his feet, this time stumbling around the Octagon, struggling to find his legs.
Just as it looked like he might recover, Nelson again landed the overhand right, this time sending Nogueira sliding across the canvas, out cold, leaving him flat on his back.
Nelson, knowing the fight was over, turned and walked away as the referee rushed in to stop the fight.
It was an important victory for Nelson, who entered the bout coming off of back-to-back losses. Perhaps more importantly, he defeated a former Pride and UFC champion in the process of getting back to his winning ways.
“Anytime you beat Big Nog, I mean, he’s a legend. If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be fighting in MMA,” said Nelson after the bout, not having a disparaging word to say about Nogueira.
He didn’t really have anyone to single out after defeating the legendary heavyweight, however, other than to shoot for the top of the mountain.
“You know what? I always wanna to fight for the belt. We’ll work our way backwards.”
For Nogueira, it’s going to be a time of heavy reflection. Despite his past accolades, the former champion has alternated between wins and losses throughout his UFC tenure, and now has suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time in his storied career.