UFC 110: One Last Title Run Begins Tonight for Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

Erik FontanezCorrespondent IFebruary 20, 2010

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira has seen his share of battles throughout his illustrious career.

Having faced some of the toughest names in the sport, “Minotauro” is already a legend, and solidified himself as a champion of champions for a sport of sports.

Now, in the hours leading up to UFC 110, Nogueira prepares for yet another run at a heavyweight title coveted by any and all heavyweights in the industry.

The Ultimate Fighting Championships is, without a doubt, the model for what top-flight competition is in MMA. Names such as Lesnar, Mir, Arlovski, Couture, Coleman, and others have, at one time, donned the name of “heavyweight champ.”

Having won the interim title two years ago in 2008, Nogueira is on the list of outstanding fighters who have competed in the UFC. Though his title rain ended after just one fight in a loss to Frank Mir, Nogueira is, once again, one to two fights away from competing for the heaviest crown in the business.

Some might say that he is already competing for the heavyweight title tonight at UFC 110 against Cain Velasquez .

Of course, the winner of tonight’s bout will not have a gold belt wrapped around their waist by UFC president Dana White . Tonight’s main event victor more so earns the promise from White to be considered for a title shot.

Depending how the events between Frank Mir and Shane Carwin unfold at UFC 111, the winner of Nogueira-Velasquez could or could not be fighting Brock Lesnar this summer.

Injuries have played a key role in the organization, of late, so if the winner of tonight’s fight can stay healthy longer than all his heavyweight peers, they can face the hulking champion next.

Who that winner will be is a difficult question answer.

Nogueira comes with a world of experience, while his opponent, Velasquez, rides a train of momentum that a mountain would have trouble stopping. Nogueira, however, has climbed and conquered mountains in the past.

If Nog is bigger than mountains, then he might have what it takes to derail the “Cain Train.”

Experience is a huge factor in tonight’s main event, and Cain Velasquez, with all the tools and talent he possesses, lacks this one vital component.

For those who discount Nogueira for having the mileage of a beaten up Bentley, the veteran and former Pride champ has shown some incredible resilience throughout his career. Resilience is something that tends to stick around for the most stubborn of people, and athletes are some of the most stubborn on the planet.

Nogueira has the capability of taking some of the most brutal punishment while his opponents dance around in his guard. They don’t call him “Minotauro” for nothing. The man has the head of a bull and punches don’t penetrate his skull the same way they would for a normal human being.

With the exception of his recent outing against Frank Mir, opponents are more likely to break their hand punching Nog in the head.

Nogueira’s frame is not weak, his grip strength is still ungodly, and his jiu-jitsu remains some of the most refined to date. To say he is beyond the age of competition is a grotesque failure to truly understand Nogueira’s ability as a fighter and what he has overcome in previous years.

Against a prime and in shape Cro Cop, Nogueira was overwhelmed with strikes for an entire first round. Come second round, Nogueira changed the tide of the fight when he was able to pull the head kicking Croatian to the canvas. An arm-bar later, and it was all over.

Tim Sylvia? Same scenario, except this ended with a guillotine choke.

Nogueira is like your favorite GI Joe from when you were young; he takes a beating and gets buried in the commotion, but ultimately sticks around to be the favorite. He’s not like your Transformers, where you tried to figure out how they worked, but ended up breaking them in the process.

I’m still upset about my Optimus Prime.

In any case, Nog’s longevity will extend for another two to three years, and tonight is the beginning of what should be his final title run as a top ranked heavyweight.

After Nog is done fighting, his legacy will be carried on with the strength and speed of his young protégé, Junior dos Santos. Until then, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is a championship contender in the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization and, after tonight, could once again be fighting for the top spot.

Nogueira by submission in the third.