Esther Lin for MMA Fighting
Fabricio Werdum will look to show his overall mixed martial arts (MMA) game has improved drastically since his first meeting against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in 2006 when the two go head-to-head after their coaching stint on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Brazil 2.
It's rather odd, really, given the fact he has won seven of his last nine fights, including wins over Antonio Silva, Fedor Emelianenko, Roy Nelson and going undefeated (2-0) in his current (his second) Octagon tour. The only two losses during his current run are to arguably the top two big men in the sport -- reigning UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior dos Santos and former Strikeforce champion -- and current number one contender -- Alistair Overeem.
Hard to hang your head too low over those losses.
Yet, despite his impressive run, when talking about the heaviest of the heavy-hitters in the land of the giants, names like Cain Velasquez and Daniel Cormier, as well as the aforementioned "Cigano" and Overeem, are usually top of mind among most mixed martial arts (MMA) fans.
However, win after win, "Vai Cavalo" is slowly creeping up and looking to make his own case for heavyweight title contention ... and name recognition.
Speaking at today's' (Nov. 8, 2012) The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Brazil 2" conference call, Werdum says he is "honored" to fight Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira one more time, but declares his fight game has improved drastically since that night in 2006 at Pride Critical Countdown Absolute in which Nogueira earned a unanimous decision victory over him.
"I was very happy. I was in Brazil for Anderson just this last month and people were talking about the possibility of me being on TUF. I thought it would be Shogun and Lyoto but I'm honored to be coaching in Brazil against Nogueira. We fought in 2006 and Nogueira was more experienced then and I got beat up in that fight. I'm much stronger now. To have chance to fight Nogueira after seven years, I've really evolved my game. I think our goal is to win the title and I need to win this fight to be in contention. Nogueira was a lot more experienced than I was in Pride. It's changed a lot and in my past fights in the UFC, I showed I have knockout power and I won Fight of the Night. I have shown and all around MMA game so it's changed a lot. I've always looked up to Nogueira to this day, with the things he's overcome and the diversity with his injuries. I've looked up to him for his jiu-jitsu and Wanderlei for his aggression. It's an honor to be at that level today and to be fighting Nogueira."
Being overlooked is nothing new for Werdum, who says he wasn't even expecting to get the call to coach in the second installment of TUF: "Brazil." He felt the gig would be awarded to a pair of better known Brazilian fighters in Lyoto Machida and Mauricio Rua, but is glad his own countrymen are starting to recognize him as an elite fighter.
"It was a surprise for me when I was in Brazil that people were mentioning me as maybe a coach. I didn't think I was as known in Brazil as Shogun and Nogueira and Lyoto. The reality began since I heard from people in Brazil."
Should Werdum pull out the victory over the veteran Nogueira when the two meet inside the Octagon following their TUF stint, one can't deny him his place amongst the elite of the elite when it comes to the best big men in MMA.
What's your take: Can Werdum make it three straight under the UFC umbrella and solidify his case for a title shot with a win over "Big Nog," while exacting some revenge in the process?