Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira and Roy Nelson will compete against one another in the main event at UFC Fight Night 39 in Abu Dhabi.
The two heavyweights enter the evening ranked No. 11 and No. 9 respectively. The winner may have an outside shot of working themselves back into title contention, and the loser will all but see his hopes dashed in the heat of the United Arab Emirates.
Nogueira has not had back-to-back wins since a three-fight win streak was snapped in 2008. Since that time he has traded wins and losses. We last seen him inside the cage in a losing effort to No. 2-ranked Fabricio Werdum last summer.
The 37-year-old has a stiff challenge in Nelson. He will have to have a resurgence in order to nab a win away from the younger man.
These are Minotauro's keys to victory for UFC Fight Night 39.
Everyone loves a finish, but Minotauro has to be realistic in this matchup.
Nelson is notoriously hard to finish. He can take shots on the feet without going down, and on the mat he is one of the most competent grapplers. This is not a great matchup for Nogueira in his current athletic state.
He needs to point fight.
Nogueira should look to touch Nelson up on his feet with jabs and straight punches. He can avoid getting into a slugfest, and simply pick his shots to keep a running tally on the judge's scorecards.
It is a five-round fight. He only needs to win three.
The former decorated champion would be best served by keeping a methodical pace while trying to point fight.
Avoid the Bottom
Nogueira's jiu-jitsu was a near-mythological being at one time in this sport. That time has past.
He has been stopped twice inside the Octagon via submission. Nelson is a very good grappler in his own right, and it is not out of the realm that he could lock up an appendage in Abu Dhabi.
The adage of “position before submission” holds true in this matchup more than most. Nogueira will not be able to easily sweep Nelson. He must avoid the bottom. It does not look good in the eyes of the judges, and Nelson has a solid top game.
Minotauro will not earn a second straight win if Nelson is successful with getting him on the canvas.
Mix It Up
Nelson is perhaps the better technical boxer, and he is also the better wrestler. For Nogueira to be successful in this fight he needs to mix up his attacks.
Nogueira is certainly a live dog in this fight, but he needs to keep Nelson guessing.
If he can do that, he can be successful in both the stand-up and in getting Nelson down on the mat. If he is able to do that, the former champion will look good in this fight. He will not be banking on a finish. He will need to push this fight into deep waters while winning rounds.
If Nogueira tries to strike or grapple singularly, he will fail. He has to feint, make Nelson bite and then he can find spots for his offense. Nelson must be put off-balance.
That is how Nogueira has to win this fight. At this point in his career his outs are becoming less and less, and this matchup is not the best for finding success. He has to fight smart.
Minotauro will need to fight the perfect fight to pick up the win.