I always enjoy seeing a tough old warhorse like Antonio Rogerio Nogueira fight. Maybe it's part of getting older (40-something, thank you, but can still bench my bodyweight 20+ times). The enduring feeling with Nogueira is that he's a guy whose spent much of his career in the shadow of his legendary brother, while putting on his best performances in a prime that escaped most stateside mixed martial arts (MMA) fans.
Yet for all the mileage and hard bouts, like a savvy old-timer, "Little Nog" knows how to pick enough spots to win close fights. And against Rashad Evans last night (Feb. 2, 2013) at UFC 156, Nogueira found himself in against a guy whose inability to implement the one thing he most needed -- takedowns -- left him ripe for the picking.
And Nog did just enough to exploit that.
Either way, it was inevitable that Evans was heading to 185 pounds. After getting dominated by Jon Jones, the writing was on the wall. But, on the heels of this defeat, Nogueira sends likely sends "Suga" down with a loss instead of the much-needed win oddsmakers figured he'd get. Tabbed as a 4-1 favorite, it figured that the aged Nog simply would be outsped.
But, by stuffing a couple key takedown attempts, he essentially set the plate to outpoint Evans, who simply couldn't get off in the standing phase of the bout enough to deter Nog's crisp boxing. And, on top of all that, it was a terrible, unwatchable fight in spots. But, if it's gotta be that, I'd rather have the aged veteran win every time.
I'm not sure what happens in Bobby Green's future, but his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, was one hell of a beginning to what should be an exciting career on the fight game's biggest stage. Pitted against Jacob Volkmann -- who'd emerged as the lightweight version of Matt Lindland by blanketing and wrestle-smashing six of seven lightweight opponents -- Green survived a harrowing opening round, with Volkmann on him like the proverbial bad suit.
But, in the second, Green showed dynamite takedown defense, and scored one of his own. Proceeding to then unload 30+ strikes in an exceptionally active attack from the top, Green was rallying big time, only to have ref Kim Winslow inexplicably stand them back up with 1:50 left in the round.
This was one of the more baffling decisions I've ever seen on a Nevada UFC show. Boneheaded calls are almost par for the course when the promotion goes to off-the-main-track states, whose athletic commissions seem to have a cumulative sporting IQ only slightly higher than Boo Radley.
You expect this kind of stuff.
With the bad call, Winslow nearly put Green back into the poorhouse as he was taken down with less than a minute to go in the stanza, and Bobby was getting worked over by Volkmann again (thankfully, getting "worked over" by Volkmann rarely includes meaningful strikes -- just an endless series of stifling positional improvements and submission attempts).
To his credit, Green sucked it up in the third, delivering a bone-jarring series of strikes after yet another slick takedown, this time off a beautifully timed trip from the clinch. Ramming home hard shots, he finished the job with a choke. Given Winslow's penchant in the first standup, you have to wonder if Green felt he had limited time from the top to work. Either way, it would've been serious injustice of the standup had cost him the win, but, thankfully, it will be forgotten in the context of the victory. Volkmann is a very tough out at 155, and Green's performance was one of the more impressive Octagon debuts we've seen in a while, especially against a guy who had nine UFC fights.
Green also seems a tad small for 155 pounds, and looks like he could make Featherweight.
Other UFC 156 random thoughts and musings include:
- I used to think Tyron Woodley was one of those guys cursed with that odd blend of dominating talent but a boring style (kind of a Lindland redux). That he'd probably be more exciting in defeat, as he was in his classic war with Nate Marquardt (much as Lindland was in losses to Murilo Bustamante, David Terrell, Vitor Belfort, Fedor Emelianenko and Robbie Lawler). In his Strikeforce outings, Woodley had pretty much wrestle-slept better-caliber opponents in Tarec Saffidiene, Paul Daley and Jordan Mein. He spent a lot of time outwrestling guys and not a lot of it striking them, which is pretty much what the public wants from dominating grapplers. But in 36 seconds of a stunning UFC debut, Woodley wiped all that away in a blitzkrieg of Jay Hieron. It was a nice reminder of what I call the "Koscheck Factor" -- talented wrestlers, over time, can develop effective striking, and once they do, they suddenly become a lot more exciting. It stands to reason that someone with the athleticism to compete at the collegiate level can acquire decent standup, and looking at Josh Koscheck's earliest UFC bouts, he had virtually no standup whatsoever. It's now one of his best weapons. Woodley will be fun to watch as he evolves, especially as he gets more comfortable with the nifty move he put on Hieron, faking a jab and following it with an all-in sweeping right hand.
- Erick Silva, who was supposed to fight Hieron before dropping out, is someone I very much want to see again. He and Woodley would be a very watchable bout, mostly because Silva is incredibly tough to take down and just seems to be wired for violence.
- Isaac Vallie-Flagg showed incredible persistence in outworking Yves Edwards on the preliminary portion of the card. Outslicked in spots early, Vallie-Flagg simply kept pressing, showing a cement head and the rare kind of resilience to wear down the veteran. Guys like him are always fun to watch, and he looks like one of those fighters the UFC can plug in against almost anyone for an entertaining bout.
- If anyone sends Nogueira an early Christmas card, it should be middleweight contender Chris Weidman, whose path to Anderson Silva was apparently cleared by Dana White after Evans' decision loss. It's about time the UFC made Silva fight Weidman, who is clearly the best middleweight contender available. Not because Silva is ducking him, but because that's what a champ is supposed to do. Silva may not be crazy about it, facing a relatively small-potatoes challenger in terms of other bouts available to him, such as a superfight with Georges St. Pierre -- but a champ's job is to defend his title against the next best guy available. Weidman is absolutely that.
- We'll know more Monday about what the failed drug test rumors are that emerged from this weekend's UFC buzz. Word on the street is that it isn't anyone from this event -- but whomever breaks the story first needs to credit ace scoopster FrontRowBrian, who, as is his wont, broke the news first via Twitter. FRB is MMA's version of Bob Woodward, and the rest of us should recognize that accordingly.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst