Veteran light heavyweights Rashad Evans and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira haven't competed inside the Octagon for a combined 23 months.
That makes for a very interesting showdown between the two divisional standouts come this Saturday at UFC 156.
For Evans, showcasing his ability to rebound from a championship loss to Jon Jones back in April is going to be key. He'll need to impress the UFC brass if he wants to make a run at Anderson Silva.
For "Lil Nog," capturing a victory over a top five contender in the division will ultimately round out his UFC career and possibly lead to a bigger role in 2013.
In any case, this co-main event to the co-main event is going to be a good one. Here's how the two stack up head to toe.
Rashad Evans isn't close to as wild as Wanderlei Silva inside the cage, but his precision striking isn't on the same level as Antonio Rogerio Nogueira's.
The bottom line is that Nogueira trains with some of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the sport. He's grown comfortable fitting his fists into tight places and quickly.
Now while Evans is very good at changing up levels and approaching from different angles, "Lil Nog" should have no issue landing shots as long as he stays away from an Evans takedown.
While Antonio Rogerio Nogueira has recorded significant career finishes over guys like Alistair Overeem, Vladimir Matyushenko and Tito Ortiz, his innate power doesn't quite equate to that of Rashad Evans.
Ever since Evans cut down from heavyweight to compete at 205, he brought his power with him. It has helped him secure some devastating finishes in the past and serves as an immediate means for caution for any one of his opponents.
Nogueira has only been finished once in his career by punches, but he stills need to pay attention to the more powerful Evans and his hellish hooks.
SLIGHT ADVANTAGE: EVANS
This shouldn't even be up for discussion.
While Antonio Rogerio Nogueira's elite jiu-jitsu gets him out of some sticky grappling situations, it does little against a wrestler of Rashad Evans' caliber.
Usually when Evans works for a takedown he gets it. No ifs, ends or buts about it. It's helped him win fights in the past and will continue to do so in the future.
With Nogueira's striking game backed by formidable boxing, Evans' takedown ability will once again be his best bet for a decisive win.
Not for nothing, but Phil Davis, who Evans took down three times, took "Lil Nog" down with ease.
MAJOR ADVANTAGE: EVANS
Just like Rashad Evans' vastly superior wrestling game, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira's jiu-jitsu skills have the capability to win him this fight.
Evans has never been submitted, but considering he may opt to take this fight to the canvas and utilize his strong ground and pound, Nogueira's third degree black belt could come into play.
The Brazilian hasn't secured a submission victory since 2009, but even if he doesn't catch Evans in a triangle choke or arm bar, he can at least slow him down.
MAJOR ADVANTAGE: NOGUEIRA
Rashad Evans is definitely the more well-rounded fighter.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira may be more evolved in individual skill sets like boxing and jiu-jitsu, but Evans can do a little bit of everything.
He's got great footwork, worthy clinch capabilities against the cage, a very strong guard and an unorthodox approach to striking.
His overall athleticism also factors into his ability to do things Nogueira simply can't. So while it's possible that "Lil Nog" can surprise Evans, it's highly unlikely.
Evans is easily the more versatile and intangibly capable fighter.
Rashad Evans is still a top-five light heavyweight in the world despite losing unanimously to Jon Jones back at UFC 145.
At this point in his career, Evans' role in the division strongly resembles that of Chael Sonnen's once prolific reign as the UFC middleweight division's top contender. Too good to be matched up with the rest, but not good enough to win the belt.
Similar to Sonnen, Evans could be looking to switch things up with a potential move to middleweight. Isn't that ironic.
But regardless of weight class, Evans should be the favorite to win any fight that doesn't involve a belt. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira is a very strong test, but considering he's a 36-year-old veteran coming off a 13-month absence, his relevance in this bout may be limited.
Look for Evans to impose his will, take Nogueira down, do some damage and grind out a win in an effort to make his case for a shot at the greatest fighter of all time.
VERDICT: EVANS VIA UNANIMOUS DECISION
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