Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira, aka Big Nog, is one of those guys you can't help but love no matter what. When he steps out to fight he's either going to make your day or break your heart.
As a former Pride and UFC-interim heavyweight champion, Big Nog has had a career consisting of over 40 professional MMA fights spanning over 10 years.
With so many great fights to look at, here are his top 10 career defining moments.
Big Nog suffered his first career loss to Dan Henderson in the semi-final bout of the Rings: King of Kings 1999 tournament. Nogueira had been on a tear up until that point winning all six of his fights with four by submission.
This was the first roadblock on Big Nog's road to success, and was in some ways a turning point as he would go on to have a 13-fight win streak later on.
Big Nog capped off his 13-win streak with an armbar submission win over Dan Henderson back on Dec. 23, 2002 at Pride 24.
This avenged his first, and to that date only, career loss. Nogueira had already captured the Pride Heavyweight Championship and defeated the likes of Mark Coleman, Heath Herring, and Semmy Schilt during this run.
While this was not quite his peak, it was his last big fight before he began his rivalry with The Last Emperor...
Big Nog first battled Fedor on Mar. 16, 2003 at Pride 25. He would lose that fight, and the Pride Heavyweight Championship, in a hard fought decision.
While Fedor had gone the distance before, Nogueira was the first fighter to pose a real challenge to "The Last Emperor."
The two would not fight again for over a year, in which time Fedor would continue to finish his opposition while Big Nog would string together five-straight wins to include capturing the interim-Pride Heavyweight Championship after submitting Mirko Cro Cop (who Fedor was rumored to be dodging at the time).
Their rematch would take place on Aug. 15, 2004 in the finals of the 2004 Heavyweight Grand Prix at Pride Final Conflict 2004 to determine the undisputed Pride heavyweight king.
Unfortunately this fight would end in a no-contest due to an "accidental" headbutt, which opened a deep cut over Fedor's eye. Some were quick to blame Fedor, as Big Nog was getting the best of him prior to this.
Their third match would be each fighters next outing in order to finally finish the Heavyweight GP, and unify the Pride Heavyweight Championship. This bout took place on New Years Eve of that same year, and would once again end in hard-fought decision win for Fedor.
While Big Nog was never able to get the "W" over Fedor, these epic battle were the most intense heavyweight fights taking place at that time in the world.
After his first loss to Fedor, Big Nog would go on to defeat Ricco Rodriguez, and although Fedor was continuing to fight, he had yet to actually put his newly acquire Pride Heavyweight title on the line.
Kickboxing specialist Mirko Cro Cop was next in line to challenge for the title, but for "whatever" reason, that fight was not able to be put together. So instead they decided to have Nogueira and Cro Cop fight for an interim-heavyweight title.
Big Nog would go on to give Cro Cop his first professional loss as a mixed martial artist, and remind the world why he was still one of the best heavyweights in the world.
Some might only know Heath Herring as the guy who Brock Lesnar beat before becoming the UFC Heavyweight Champion, but before that he was a staple of the Pride heavyweight division going 12-5 with the promotion.
Those losses would only come to the elite of Pride such as Fedor, Cro Cop, Belfort, and of course Big Nog.
On three separate occasion, under two different banners, Nogueira showed that he was the better fighter and prove that Herring would forever be relegated to the status of gatekeeper.
Back in 2008 at UFC 81, Big Nog would take on Tim Sylvia for the interim-UFC Heavyweight Championship where he would utilize his superior grappling and submit "The Maniac" right out of the UFC, as Sylvia would request to be released right after this fight.
This was the first time Nogueira was able to truly showcase his skills to the American audience, and he did so in finishing fashion.
Of course someone else who was on that same card was watching as well, and he had his own thoughts about who should reign over the division.
UFC 92 was a night of firsts for Big Nog. It was the first time he lost in the UFC, the first time he was stopped in a fight, and the first time he fought Frank Mir.
Nogueira would also lose the interim-UFC heavyweight title that night as well, while Mir would go on to fight in a rematch with Brock Lesnar to determine the undisputed UFC Heavyweight Champion (Mir lost, by the way).
Big Nog would not fight again for eight months, and many wondered if he would ever return to his old form, or if he ever really was as good as we thought he was.
at UFC 102, Big Nog and Randy Couture would fight in an epic 3-round battle that would go down as one of the greatest fights in UFC history.
It was a matchup of two legends who would have otherwise never had the chance to fight each other had Zuffa, the UFC's parent company, not purchased their rival Pride.
This fight showed that both Nogueira and Couture still had a lot of fight left in them. It also serves as a reminder of the kind of fights we could have been privileged to had these two fought years prior.
After his win over Randy Couture, Big Nog would face off against then-undefeated Cain Valasquez to determine the No.1 contender for the UFC Heavyweight title.
Things would not go so well for Nogueira as he would for the second time in his career lose via stoppage, this time by a clean KO.
It was hard to determine at the time of Big Nog was past his prime, or if Cain was really that good, but needless to say this was a dark day for Nogueira fans and it created a lot of questions about his future in the division.
Prior to this fight, Big Nog had 32 wins on his record, and only two of those wins were by (T)KO. Before the end of the first round, that number would become three.
Nogueira was coming off an 18 month hiatus after a devastating KO loss to Cain Valasquez. Schaub was on a four-fight win streak which included a KO win over Mirko Cro Cop.
For Big Nog, this win showed us that the old bull still had some steam, and the young calf still had a lot to learn.
Only five people in the world can say they have defeated Big Nog in a professional MMA match, and two of them were bested by the Brazilian in their rematch.
Will Frank Mir become the third fighter Nogueira gets vengeance upon, or fall short once again when facing one of the best the UFC has to offer?
Well fight fans, what do you think? Will Big Nog get the win he needs and be back in contention for the title, or will Frank Mir silence the jiu-jitsu wizard and secure his third-straight win? Sound off below, and let us know what you think.
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