The popular pick for "Knockout of the Night" for UFC 134 in Rio de Janeiro was that it would take place during the heavyweight contest between rising prospect Brendan Schaub and former interim champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
But not many people thought it would be "Big Nog" who would be walking home with the award.
It took Nogueira 40 fights before finally making his debut in his native Brazil last night (August 27, 2011) and he made sure to deliver in front of the raucous crowd.
So how did the old dog pull it off? And what key mistake did Brendan Schaub make which allowed the legend to finish the fight?
After taking 18 months off from multiple surgeries to allow his body to recover, Nogueira looked considerably lighter on his feet against Schaub. He was looking to clinch and score takedowns early against "The Hybrid" but he was shrugged off pretty easily and Schaub blasted him with an uppercut that made the Brazilian legend second-guess his strategy.
Nogueira instead began pressing forward, ducking Schaub's punches and landing a nice combination in which both his left and right hands found a home on the Grudge fighter's face.
As Nogueira continued to duck Schaub's lead left hand, "The Hybrid" timed it beautifully and connected with a right uppercut and again scored with a left hand. Unlike in past fights against Frank Mir and Cain Velasquez, "Monotauro's" chin refused to betray him and he responded well to the damaging blows, forcing the American to back off and reset.
"Big Nog" pressed forward and noticed that both of Brendan Schaub's hands were low, about mid-chest high. This was the opening he needed. After Schaub found himself backed against the fence, Nogueira threw a huge overhand right that connected flush to his face and wobbled the top prospect. With Schaub hurt, Nogueira continued with a devastating combination of six punches that dropped "The Hybrid" face-first onto the canvas. One punch later and it was all over. Nogueira is back, baby!
Brendan Schaub made a couple huge mistakes in this fight. The first was that he continuously circled to the left, directly into Nogueira's right hand. The other was his inability to keep his hands up to defend his exposed head, especially with the way he leans forward while he's looking to land power strikes of his own. Perhaps it was overconfidence, but these are mistakes that can be easily corrected with time. His biggest issue now will be having to answer questions about his chin after being on the receiving end of two knockouts in the UFC. Nogueira has decent boxing, but a knockout artist he is not. This was his third knockout in his 41 fight career.
Look for Schaub to try to rebound against another down-on-his-luck heavyweight. Perhaps the loser of the upcoming Cheick Kongo vs. Matt Mitrione fight or the Travis Browne vs. Rob Broughton loser. There are many possibilities for the young heavyweight. The loser of Dave Herman vs. Mike Russow would also be an intriguing possibility.
For "Minotauro," he's got to be on top of the world, scoring an improbable finish like that in front of a heated crowd that was behind him every step of the way. There are plenty of awesome match-ups for the legend. Perhaps a rematch against Frank Mir now that he's finally healthy. Another intriguing possibility would be the winner of the upcoming Mirko Filipovic vs. Roy Nelson fight. The timing couldn't be any better to have him fight either veteran heavyweight.
What do you think, Maniacs?
Did Brendan Schaub bite off more than he could chew in asking for another heavyweight legend? What ran through your mind when Nogueira pulled off the upset?