by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
The doubts that were raised about Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira following his last fight were all laid to rest on Saturday night as the former UFC and Pride champion dominated Randy Couture for all three rounds to earn a unanimous decision win, and placing himself back in title contention in the heavyweight division.
The two legendary heavyweights let it be known early on that they had no problem swinging for the fences as both Couture and Nogueira let the leather fly with both landing big punches in the opening minutes of the fight.
After Couture took advantage of the clinch and a good uppercut from his classic dirty boxing, it was Nogueira who popped the UFC hall of famer with a big shot that sent him to the mat.
Nogueira rushed in looking for the finish and actually locked on a beautiful D’arce choke that would have put away almost any heavyweight in the world, but not Randy Couture. The ageless wonder battled his way out and the after that the exchanges on the feet looked more like Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar, than Couture vs. Nogueira.
Couture got the top position early in the 2nd round, but Nogueira reversed with a lightning quick sweep, landing in the mount. Nogueira worked from the mount to hit a submission and he almost locked on a head and arm triangle, but Couture again battled his way out and back to the feet.
The end of the round again brought both men moving forward firing shot after shot at each other as the heavyweight match-up made it to the final 5 minutes.
With Couture down 2 rounds to none heading into the third, Nogueira looked to seal the deal as he cracked the former heavyweight and light heavyweight champion with a heavy punch that sent him crashing to the ground. The Brazilian followed up and tried to finish, but again Couture battled out and stayed out of trouble, even giving up his back at one point.
Nogueira was trying for a choke as he slipped off of Couture’s back and this time it was the American who ended up on top trying to land heavy ground and pound. With just seconds remaining in the fight, Nogueira again reversed position and landed in the mount as the final horn sounded.
As the judges’ scorecards were read to the Portland crowd, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira got the decision win and the respect of the entire audience for putting on a world class performance over a UFC legend.
“He’s one of my idols in the UFC,” Nogueira said about Couture following the win.
With the next heavyweight title fight already determined pitting champion, Brock Lesnar, against Colorado big man, Shane Carwin, it was no secret that Nogueira is ready to face whoever to get the championship belt around his waist.
“I want a title belt, if you guys give me the chance to fight against Lesnar, it would be my pleasure,” Nogueira commented.
Always a class act whether winning or in defeat, Randy Couture didn’t hesitate when saying that he planned on being back in the Octagon again, feeling like he’s in the best shape of his life.
“What keeps me going is guys like Nogueira, interesting fights,” Couture said about his future in the UFC. “We’ll let the dust settle, take a week, see what the UFC wants to do. I’m here, I’m ready to fight, I feel the best I’ve ever felt.”