On December 27, 2008 when Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira entered the octagon very few gave his opponent Frank Mir a chance at defeating the tough Brazillian but to the shock of the world Mir knocked out Nogueira in the Second Round and became the first man to stop Nogueira, but unknown to the fans who tuned in to see that event that Nogueira was putting his health and safety at a big risk when he battled Mir for the Interim UFC Heavyweight Championship as weeks earlier he was hospitalized with a staph infection and tore his meniscus during his training camp so he entered the octagon a portion of the man that he could be but not wanting to let down the supporters of the UFC on their biggest event of the year he battled through the pain and defended his Interim Championship but in the process looked out-of-shape and put forward his worst performance to date.
On the other hand we have the 46 year old veteran in Randy "The Natural" Couture who was coming off being defeated by a much larger, stronger Brock Lesnar who made many question whether it was time for Randy to hang up his gloves once and for all, he was really beginning to show his age for the first time in his career and when your getting to the stage when you can't keep up with the young lions on the rise its usually time to give it up but Randy claims he is in the best shape of his life and ready for anything that the UFC throws his way and this is cemented by the fact that he just inked himself a three year, six fight contract.
So the stage was set for these two legends of the sport to finally face off, for years when Randy Couture was the UFC Heavyweight Champion and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was the Pride Heavyweight Champion and much like the climax of Wanderlei Silva & Chuck Liddell in 2007 this was the fight that answered so many questions about the past and remove that "who would win?" question from the minds of the MMA purists out there and this battle did not disappoint, both men didn't give up an inch and put on a war for the ages and the two aging veterans with their back against the wall who entered the octagon exited looking like gold regardless of the victor.
Both Couture and Nogueira cemented their staying power following their fight at 102 and neither will be going anywhere anytime soon but the big question becomes where does each fighter go from here? is Nogueira ready for a Title Shot against the winner of Brock Lesnar & Shane Carwin? Does Couture drop down to Light-Heavyweight and live out the rest of his career at 205? I'll look into this a little deeper.
When all the smoke cleared and the battle was fought the man left standing was Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira but where does his MMA journey go from now? In my eyes there are three potential fights for Nogueira here, the first being a rematch against the man who defeated him at UFC 92 last year Frank Mir and we will see how that fight may have gone if Nogueira were at 100%, the second fight being a rematch with Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic if cro-cop were to get past Junior Dos Santos at UFC 103 it would be a perfect time for Cro Cop to step up and face some top level competition inside the UFC and also a fight against the winner of either Brock Lesnar & Shane Carwin could be very interesting to see how Nogueira would deal with men the size of them as he has only faced men that size against Bob Sapp.
On the other end theres Randy Couture, for Randy there are more possibilities because he is torn between two weight classes, if he were to stay at Heavyweight potential match-ups could be against former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir, the loser of the upcoming Heavyweight Championship fight and potentially in the next 12-18 months if he were to rack up two victories a shot at the Heavyweight Champion whomever that may be at the time is very likely.
If The Natural were to make the drop down to Light-Heavyweight again there are a number of matchups which could create a lot of excitement for Couture for instance a fight against the loser of the Rashad Evans vs Quentin Jackson fight or provided that he doesn't win the title at UFC 104 a fight against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua or even a battle with Luis Arthur Cane could be a great outing but his ultimate goal if he were to make the drop to 205 as he has stated is to face the Champion, Lyoto Machida which could be very interesting as Machida has a very hard style to crack and Couture feels he is up for the challenge of "The Dragon" and Couture has a tendency to get a Title Shot when he pleases as shown with his previous drop to 205.
Regardless of where these two go with their careers it is unquestionable that these are two legends of the game and future UFC Hall of Famers, both have shown that they are they can face the best and come out on top in the most case, both are former Champions and both will be two men we will look back on ten years from now and speak of how they were "back in the day" the likes seen with Royce Gracie in the current day and age of the UFC.
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