UFC 153: Questions About Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Minotauro Nogueira is, without question, one of the most beloved and decorated heavyweights in the history of combat sports.
He’s gone through countless wars in both PRIDE and the UFC, and has repeatedly proven to be among the few men in mixed martial arts who can lay claim to being a true legend.
However, going into his fight with Dave Herman at UFC 153—his second UFC fight on Brazilian soil—there are questions swirling regarding the former champion of the two biggest promotions in MMA history.
How Is His Chin?
The biggest question that the aging warrior has had to deal with in recent years has been whether or not he can still take punishment like he could when he was a younger man.
Most of his fights have involved him being almost killed, before turning the tables to score an improbable and usually downright spectacular win.
However, after Frank Mir knocked him out and Cain Velasquez did the same, many wondered if he could still eat punches and keep coming as enthusiastically as he once did.
Against Herman and his crazed approach to striking, the answer will likely be uncovered.
How Durable Is He at 36?
Beyond chin issues, there is no denying that one has to question the durability of a man with the physical mileage Nogueira has on his body.
Years of grappling, boxing and MMA have unquestionably taken a toll on him and he’s spent nearly as much time in rehab during his UFC tenure as he has in the cage. Furthermore, let's not forget he only got this far in life after he survived being run over by a truck.
While Big Nog’s style is fan friendly and generally awesome to behold, it's one that has worn him down and aged him horribly. Stiff movements and scar tissue are the norm for the Brazilian now, something that was grossly less evident even five years ago.
With so much wear and tear on his body, one can’t help but wonder how much the man has left.
How Will He React to a Submission Loss?
After having his arm snapped by Mir in their rematch last December—something that almost certainly signified the end of days being near—Nogueira had nearly a year to think about losing to the art he helped make famous in the modern era.
He was, and still is, the ultimate jiu-jitsu guy, a humble and soft-spoken warrior with the heart of a lion. The question is, how will he handle his first trip to the cage after being submitted for the first time in a professional fight?
Given his veteran savvy, one would have to think he’ll be over it come fight time. There’s no way to know until he’s in there, though.
Just How Personal Is It with Herman?
Herman has made no bones about it, he doesn’t believe in jiu-jitsu as an art. Some of that is tongue-in-cheek, some of it is a guy trying to get attention for himself by saying something radical.
Nogueira has devoted his life to jiu-jitsu, and his name is perhaps the most respected in the gentle art outside of the Gracie clan.
If a guy came up to you and insulted your life’s work, would you take it personally? What if you could legally use that life’s work to choke him unconscious or gleefully snap one of his limbs?
Nogueira has the chance to do just that on Saturday night in Rio.
Is This the End?
Win or lose at UFC 153, one can’t help but have the creeping thought that Nogueira might leave the Octagon for the final time after his bout with Herman.
A win would see him cement a 2-0 record on his home turf in the UFC, and would mean that he would have absolutely nothing left to prove in MMA. He’s been a champion, an entertainer and a great ambassador for the sport. Leaving the game at 34-7-1 is nothing to cry about.
Meanwhile, a loss would likely prove that he’s done as a true contender. Herman is a fringe top-10 guy and someone that, by rights, wouldn’t be fit to hold Nogueira’s jock in 2005.
Despite being only seconds away from an official career rejuvenation against Mir at UFC 140, losing in Rio would put him at 2-4 in his last six fights with wins against an aging and undersized Randy Couture and the largely useless Brendan Schaub.
Nogueira has earned the right to choose how much longer he goes on, and how he leaves the sport when he decides it’s time to. However, there has to be that little piece of every fan wondering if it’s going to happen on Saturday night.