Later this afternoon (Fri., April 12, 2014), a mixed martial arts (MMA) legend, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, will enter the Octagon in the main event of UFC Fight Night 39, which takes place at du Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to consummate his 45th professional bout against Roy "Big Country" Nelson.
Since 1999, "Minotauro" has been the definition of an MMA pro, putting on terrific fights for fans throughout his memorable career. Coming up, he was known for his terrific Brazilian jiu-jitsu game and incredible heart, and to date, he holds 21 wins via submission. He has held belts in both Pride FC and UFC, widely regarded as one of the best Heavyweight MMA fighters of all time.
With such a long and eventful career, it is no surprise that he has been slowing down in recent years. In fact, the only times he's ever been finished in his career have been relatively recent, dropping two by submission and two by knockout since 2008.
Coming into a main event fight in 2014, one must wonder what "Big Nog" has left to prove. The length of his career has been impressive, no doubt, but other than a submission win over the not-so-impressive Dave Herman, Nogueira's only other impressive moment in recent memory was his near-finish of Frank Mir before dropping for an ill-advised submission attempt that led to him getting submitted for the first time in his career.
In all honesty, I would have preferred that he just didn't take this fight with. That's not to say that "Big Country" isn't a beatable opponent -- he definitely is -- but the potential for Nogueira to take some heavy blows in this fight is too great for someone who has been around involved in the sport so long. Years ago, I would have definitely favored Nogueira against such a one-dimensional, predictable opponent, but "Big Nog" doesn't move like he used to, and I don't think he takes the best shot anymore, either.
Ultimately, what I want from Nogueira (and most top fighters left from the "old guard") is for him to take a serious step toward hanging up his gloves. That doesn't mean retiring altogether, but I believe Nogueira needs to accept that he won't be competing at the top of the division anymore.
And it just isn't worth the toll it will take on his body.
Whether it's nostalgia or actual sense, I do think Nogueira should win his fight with Nelson at UFC Fight Night 39. Nelson is incredibly overrated and has just about one tool in his arsenal; however, being that Nogueira has a questionable chin and pretty much no head movement, it's still a fight that scares me as a fan of the Brazilian.
We'll see what happens, but win or lose, I hope that this fight is one of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's last, as he has already done far more than most others could ever achieve in MMA, a true professional who has nothing left to prove.