Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira and Stefan Struve seem to be on a UFC collision course.
Struve called for a fight against the legendary heavyweight, and Nogueira seemed open. However, according to Norueira's manager, Ed Soares, "Minotauro" will be on the shelf for awhile following surgery.
Regardless, this fight seems like the next step for both men, and it is a logical fight. Both fighters are coming off losses so it makes a lot of sense for all parties involved, and it would be an entertaining heavyweight battle.
Here is how the potential heavyweight scrap breaks down.
The striking matchup will be the most interesting to watch if, and when, these two heavyweights meet.
Stefan Struve has the longest reach in the UFC, but he doesn't always use it effectively. He also has shown a lot of holes in his striking defense.
Meanwhile, Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira's striking has improved over the years, and he has solid technique. His downfall is his speed. His legendary chin has also waned in recent years after the wars have taken their toll on his body.
I have to give Struve the edge. The younger, more athletic fighter holds the advantage over the older, slower fighter. If Struve doesn't get caught up in a brawl, then he can dictate the action on the feet. That gives him a slight advantage.
Neither of these fighters are expert wrestlers, but they are solid grapplers.
Stefan Struve has a solid ground game, and Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira is a fantastic jiu-jitsu practitioner. It is getting the fight to the ground that is the question for both men.
Nogueira hasn't been afraid of pulling guard in the past, and that could be a legitimate strategy against Struve. He also has good takedowns once he has double-underhooks in the clinch.
Struve has shown underrated takedown abilities during his UFC tenure, and I believe he will hold the advantage come the time for this fight. He will be able to stay out of trouble in the clinch, and his long limbs will give him an advantage in tripping Nogueira to the floor—if he wants to risk it there.
I'm going out on a limb, with Struve improving enough in this category, but he has shown strong dedication to improving his all-around game recently. I have faith he'll want to work on his defense to keep this fight standing, and that will negate Nogueira's takedown abilities.
There is no question on this category.
Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira is a legend of MMA on the ground and he continues to show his expertise on the canvas.
Stefan Struve has a competent ground game, but it isn't on Minotauro's level.
The former PRIDE and UFC champion will also have Struve's long limbs enticing him on the mat. The length of Struve may provide to be a disadvantage if he hits the mat with Nogueira. That is all the more reason to try and make this a war.
Nogueira will want to try and get this fight down on the ground.
Nogueira's X-Factor: Age
Age is not just the number of years that Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira has been around, but also his fighting age. As we all know, that can be compared to an old man playing chess in Central Park.
The wars have taken their toll on Nogueira, and bringing that up may be old hat. Regardless, it has to be said.
He cannot take the damage he used to, making more middle-of-the-road heavyweights his equal.
Struve's X-Factor: The Jab
Nogueira will want this fight on the mat at one point, and in order to do that, he must get close to Stefan Struve. An effective jab will keep a flat-footed Nogueira on the outside.
It will help establish distance, but it will also show an improved game plan on Struve's part.
There is no need to go to war with Nogueira. He can slow down the pace and pick his shots against the slower fighter, Struve, who should be able to utilize his jab to set up his entire offensive game plan. It is hard to tell if he will do that, but he should focus on that potential fight-changing weapon.
With each passing fight of Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira, I lose a little more faith in him. He's not a top heavyweight anymore.
However, I have even less faith in Struve.
Struve has improved some areas of his style, but he has shown low-fight IQ throughout his career. He has been hit by lesser fighters, and doesn't have the best chin. In his most recent outing against Mark Hunt, he was sloppy on the mat against a fighter with poor ground defense. He instead stood with the hard-hitting K-1 champion. That was dumb.
Nogueira has shown the ability to find some offense even as he slows. Against a fighter who doesn't have the best defense, that will give Nogueira chances to win, either standing or on the mat.
I see Nogueira finding success on the feet and using that to close the distance. He will put Struve on his back and then finish him with a submission.
Prediction: Nogueira defeats Struve via submission in the second round