Antonio Rodrigo “Big Nog” Nogueira, the UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion, has not fought since February 2008 at UFC 81. That night, he submitted former UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia via guillotine choke in the third round, and earned the interim belt.
As a result, Big Nog now sports a 31–4–1 record, with one no contest. During his long career he’s beaten some of the best fighters in the world, including Tim Sylvia, Heath Herring, Mark Coleman, Josh Barnett, Mirko Cro Cop, Fabricio Werdum, etc…
He is also the only man to win both a UFC and PRIDE belt. He is generally considered the second-best heavyweight fighter in the world, behind Fedor Emelianenko, who Big Nog has lost to on two separate occasions, with their second match in the trilogy called a no contest.
The rumors have been swirling about Big Nog’s next bout. August and September are being singled out as targets for his next match.
The state of the UFC heavyweight division is a bit scrambled at the moment, so who is next on the horizon for Big Nog?
Let’s examine the current crop of heavyweight contenders.
This is a very short list that includes Heath Herring, Fabricio Werdum, Brandon Vera, Frank Mir, and Randy Couture.
Couture is in a contract dispute with the UFC, and only wishes to fight Fedor Emelianenko. He is not an option at this point.
Herring is coming off an impressive victory over Cheick Kongo in his last fight, however, he has already lost to Big Nog three times, and a fourth match would be unwelcome.
Vera is slated to fight Fabricio Werdum at UFC 85 in June 2008. Vera is 8–1 overall, and has beaten Frank Mir, but he lost to Tim Sylvia.
Werdum is now 1–1 in the UFC. He lost to Andrei Arlovski, and then beat Gabriel Gonzaga. He has also lost to Big Nog in the past at a PRIDE event in 2006.
Mir, the former UFC Heavyweight Champion, beat Brock Lesnar in the co-main event at UFC 81. He’s beaten Tim Sylvia in the past as well, but he lost to Brandon Vera at UFC 65. According to multiple sources, he is slated to fight Justin McCully at UFC 86.
Big Nog’s next opponent has to come from this list. These are all the top heavyweight contenders at this point.
After a little research I found something very interesting. I recently checked the fight card for UFC 86, and the Frank Mir/Justin McCully match is mysteriously no longer being listed.
This leads me to believe only one thing. That Antonio Rodrigo “Big Nog” Nogueira will be fighting Frank Mir in August or September for the heavyweight crown.
That would certainly be a ground battle between two of the most skilled Jiu-Jitsu fighters in the world.
Will this come down to who has the best stand up, or will this fight take place on the ground the entire time?
I can’t wait to find out.