UFC 134 marks the return of Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira to the octagon after an 18-month injury layoff and operations on both his knees as well as his right and left hips.
He takes on the young, hungry Brendan Schaub 8-1 (5-1 UFC) who boasts seven out of his eight victories by knockout. Nogueira needs to use his considerable advantage in terms of experience and his black belt-level Jiu-Jitsu, of which he is widely considered the top exponent in the heavyweight division, teaching the likes of Anderson "The Spider" Silva and Junior "Cigano" dos Santos as teammates of the legendary Black House MMA.
In order to take this fight to the ground against a younger and quicker Schaub, who will look to make use of his longer reach and big right hand, it is essential for the Brazilian to have his wrestling on point. For that, he brought in former U.S. Olympic Wrestling Coach Eric Albarracin.
The former Pride heavyweight champion was quoted as saying "If I put him down, I've got a chance to use my Jiu-Jitsu. I have more experience than him for sure, he's physical and he's younger than me, but I've got good endurance."
Every fight is the most important one of a fighter's career, but this could not be more apt for Minotauro, who for the first time in his acclaimed career will finally fight in his home country Brazil. Therefore the stakes could not be higher for the reputation of this legend, who has been knocked out twice in his last three UFC fights—this after never being stopped in his whole career.
Renowned for his ability to take punishment and still come out on top, Minotauro's resilience will be put to test in a big way considering the ring rust. Nogueira is a certain Hall of Fame inductee in MMA, and this fight, in that sense, does not affect his legacy in the sport.
However, if Minotauro is to make a genuine run toward the heavyweight title once more, it is imperative he wins come Saturday night.