When Fabricio Werdum faced Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira the first time around, back at "Pride: Critical Countdown Absolute" in July 2006, Nogueira was already one of the sport's legendary heavyweights.
Werdum was a fantastic jiu-jitsu player, but his total MMA game hadn't developed to a point where he could compete with the best.
But now, even years later, Werdum is an accomplished all-around mixed martial artist. Heading into his rematch with Nogueira, Werdum was ranked No. 3 in the world and looking to fight his way into a UFC title shot.
Fittingly enough, and despite his advancements in the striking game, Werdum beat Nogueira using his bread and butter: the submission game. Werdum submitted Nogueira in the second round with an armbar Saturday.
The first round of UFC on Fuel 10's main event felt like the beginnings of another classic Nogueira moment. He didn't batter Werdum or anything of that nature, but Werdum was visibly tired and checking the clock as the round came to a conclusion. If Nogueira could continue advancing forward and land some of his heavy punches, perhaps he'd turn back time once again and score another impressive upset.
It was not to be. But on a record-setting night in Fortaleza, Brazil, we learned plenty about both competitors.
What We Learned about Fabricio Werdum
I'm not sold on Werdum as an immediate title contender for the winner of the eventual Cain Velasquez/Junior dos Santos rematch, but it's clear that he's at the top of the contender's heap.
Werdum's striking has come leaps and bounds in the past few years, but it was his submission game that earned him points on the night. When he's on the ground, he's as dangerous as any man in the heavyweight division.
I wouldn't guarantee Werdum faces the winner of Cain vs. JDS. After all, he's been on the shelf for a year already, and he'd had to wait at least another eight to 10 months before fighting the winner if that's the route he goes. I'd rather see him face another top heavyweight in the interim, and if he wins, there's no doubt that he'll be deserving of the title shot.
We also learned that Werdum may have some cardio issues. He was able to overcome tiredness in the first round Saturday night, but against Velasquez or dos Santos, that issue will be exploited greatly.
What We Learned about Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Put simply, it's time.
It's time for Nogueira to walk away. He's only 37, which is a far cry from the age Randy Couture competed to, but he has so much wear and tear on his body. As Kenny Florian said during the broadcast, there is a lot of miles on those tires.
I'll always enjoy watching Nogueira fight. He's a legend of the sport. But he cannot compete at the same level he used to, and that was obvious Saturday night. He was even more plodding than usual, choosing to move slowly forward and take punishment while searching for that one knockout bomb.
That worked in the past, but this is not the past. Nogueira still has a desire to compete, but it's time to hang up the gloves for good.
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