Viva Brazil!: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira takes a licking but keeps on ticking

The Ultimate Fighting Championship makes its long-awaited return to the country of Brazil this Saturday (August 27). It's a country that -- along with Japan -- helped form the sport we all know and love. Mixed martial arts' (MMA) brutal origins in vale tudo are an integral part of its history as are many of Brazil's native sons. As we head towards UFC 134: "Silva vs. Okami," Viva Brazil! will serve as a celebration of some of those countrymen and a look back at historic moments in the sport involving them.

Let's face it: mixed martial arts (MMA) fans suffer from a crippling case of "what-have-you-done-for-me-lately-culitis. Its symptoms usually flare up after big fights and include disregarding the recent past, making grand, sweeping statements about a fighter's future, and a form of what we in the business call "Chicken Little Syndrome."

So when a guy like Fedor Emelianenko drops three straight, he suddenly becomes a bum and it's as if the previous 10 years up and poofed out of existence. It also happened to Wanderlei Silva, Randy Couture; hell, it's happened to Vitor Belfort two or three times in his career.

But the biggest casualty of this awful, dreaded disease is Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. The last time we saw him inside the Octagon, he took a massive hook from current heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez that would have wobbled Galactus himself. But since "Big Nog's" chin isn't quite as strong as the Power Cosmic, he's labeled a washout and a has-been.

Pish posh! Poppycock! Today's Viva Brazil! will pay tribute to "Minotauro" and two of his greatest performances ever. The first against Bob Sapp who -- get this -- was actually pretty intimidating at the time and Mirko Filipovic, who never met a head he didn't want to viciously kick.

The UFC finally returns to Brazil tomorrow. How excited are you, little Maniacs?

Imagine if -- before the buyout -- Strikeforce was as big as the UFC and they hooked up and said, "Hey, let's get together and put on the biggest freaking MMA event in the history of history."

That's exactly what happened in 2002 when Japanese combat sports giants Pride FC and K-1 held Shockwave. Over 90,000 fans showed up to watch a combination of kickboxing bouts and MMA fights containing some of the biggest and most talented stars each sport had to offer.

This is where "Big Nog" collided with Bob Sapp. "The Beast" had Godzilla'd his way onto Japan's shore a few months prior when he made his debut at Pride 20. It took him less than three minutes to win two fights before being booked against the heavyweight champ in a non-title bout.

How the fight started off blew just about everyone's mind.

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via images.t-nation.com

The Brazilian shot in but was denied by Sapp. "The Beast" then lifts him up and in a straight 1999 All Japan Pro Wrestling-style GANSO BOMB!

Somehow "Big Nog" survived that -- and nearly 15 more minutes of punishment -- to somehow find himself in the second round where he took latched onto the arm of an oxygen-deprived Sapp and forced a tap.

It was an incredible performance from the Brazilian Energizer Bunny but one he would top a little over a year later.

In the next 347 days, "Minotauro" fought four times. Those four men were Semmy Schilt, Dan Henderson, Fedor Emelianenko, and Ricco Rodriguez. Are. You. Kidding. Me?

And what's even more nuts is that he only ended up losing to Emelianenko. He submitted the first two and won a unanimous decision over the last!

So when the Russian was unable to defend his title against number one contender Mirko Filipovic, Pride decided to have an interim title match between "Cro Cop" and Nogueira.

For the entirety of the first round -- 10 minutes long in Pride, remember? -- the Croatian battered and beat the living hell out of Nogueira. Filiopovic even landed the infamous left high kick that made everyone else who felt it forget the numbers four through eight and the color green.

As "Cro Cop's" shin collided with Nogueira's skull, you could see the sweat from the Brazilian's head and body shoot off as the force from the kick sent "Big Nog" tumbling down to the mat.

But just like his bout with Sapp, the second round was all "Minotauro" and he came out and busted out some of that beautiful Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) he's known for. Take a look:

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via www.gifsoup.com

Look how happy he is! Look how happy EVERYONE is!

Okay, maybe except for "Cro Cop."

Velasquez better be glad that he put Nogueira down for the count back at UFC 110 because unless you do, it's almost guaranteed that the Brazilian will come back to beat you.

Take note, Brendan Schaub: this is no mere mortal you're facing.

This is "Minotauro," king of the comebacks, baby!

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