Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira Pulls a Werdum
I am not an MMA insider.
I don't pretend to be privy to the training and dietary habits of the UFC elite.
They do not consult me when they have personal or emotional issues.
That means that I have nothing upon which to base my conjectures besides my own observations.
And I observed a chubby Big Nog. I observed an uninspired Big Nog. I saw a man who had never been finished by any fighter beaten by a game, yet unspectacular Frank Mir.
Frank Mir looked good. I will give you that. He looked like the best version of Frank Mir to emerge since his accident. His stand-up was sharp and crisp and he had a great game plan.
Why didn't Antonio?
Was he expecting to phone this one in? I think he was.
Verdum pulled this same stunt after being touted as the next big thing in a very thin heavyweight division, only to be exposed by a surprisingly competent Dos Santos. He didn't get the fight he wanted, so he decided to put it on autopilot, have that extra slice of pizza, and maybe get back to training for real when the title was at stake.
No dice. You can't take anyone lightly. This isn't baseball or basketball where you can wait for the hot hand or regroup during a time out or the seventh inning stretch. You've got to have your head on straight from the beginning of training camp.
The fact that it took this long is a testament to Nog's humility. He is only a man, after all, and if you surround a man with people who tell him constantly that he's the greatest, he's the champ, he's never been finished in a fight, nobody can touch him, etc., eventually he will believe on some level.
And when those yes-men are present, the gold around the waist is the worst thing that can happen to a fighter. Time and time again we've seen a hungry competitor lose his fire when he reaches his goal. In most cases, it's just a matter of time. The real test is what a fighter does next.
Let us revisit Rocky III. When Clubber Lang... well, you know the story. Probably.
Better yet, let's look at GSP. Georges now considers the day he lost to Matt Serra to be the same day he started down the path to becoming the best GSP he's ever been. Georges was lucky to have had the experience so young. If he's careful, it may never happen to him again.
I don't mean he'll never lose again. I mean he'll never lose again because he was unprepared. He'll never lose again because he looked past his opponent.
Whatever Nog does next, the sport still owes him a debt of gratitude. He really is a living legend. But the Nog that lost to Mir is a Nog who could take this opportunity to examine where he is and decide if he still has the fire in his belly to continue at this level.
If not, there is certainly no shame in that. He's done his duty and then some. If he does, I look forward to seeing a reinvigorated Minotauro who is hungry once again.
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