Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight veterans Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Stefan Struve will go to war this Saturday (Aug. 1, 2015) at UFC 190 inside HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Having lost three of his last four fights, Nogueira is in a rather unenviable position. The legendary Heavyweight is certainly nearing the end of his career, as it's been sometime since the Brazilian looked good in a fight, but he's still looking to delay that day.
While Struve hasn't absorbed quite as much damage as his opponent, the Dutchman has also taken plenty of beatings. In addition, health issues sidelined him for more than one year, meaning that Struve likely needs to earn the victory to prove himself a safe member of the roster.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for each man:
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Key Wins: Randy Couture (UFC 102), Brendan Schaub (UFC 134), Dave Herman (UFC 153)
Key Losses: Roy Nelson (UFC Fight Night 39), Fabricio Werdum (UFC on Fuel TV 10), Frank Mir (UFC 140, UFC 92)
Keys to Victory: One of the finest submission fighters in Heavyweight history, Nogueira has finished off 22 of his opponents via tap, snap or nap. While his submission skills have remained sharp, Nogueira's famous durability is no longer an asset, as he's been finished in his last five losses.
Luckily, Nogueira shouldn't have to rely on his chin in this bout.
Struve is a competent grappler, but his takedown defense is absolutely mediocre. Nogueira has never had a particularly explosive shot, but there's little doubt that he can drag down the lengthy kick boxer ... at least while he's still fresh.
Once on top, Nogueira is in his wheel house. Struve will likely attempt to threaten with submissions, but that should just open up guard passes for the Brazilian. If Mark Hunt can pass Struve's guard repeatedly, the jiu-jitsu black belt shouldn't have much of an issue.
As mentioned, Nogueira is a true veteran. He knows how to bait his opponent and find submissions, and there's no part of Struve's game that should prevent "Minotauro" from doing something similar here.
Key Wins: Stipe Miocic (UFC on Fuel 5), Pat Barry (UFC on Versus 6)
Key Losses: Alistair Overeem (UFC on FOX 13), Mark Hunt (UFC on Fuel 8), Travis Browne (UFC 130)
Keys to Victory: Though he usually opts to stand and trade -- at great risk to his own face, I might add -- Struve is actually a rather talented grappler in his own right. And while his defense can often be atrocious, the Dutchman is dangerous on his feet as well.
Firstly, the technician and strategist in me would love to say that Struve should fight long. Working the jab and front kicks, Struve hypothetically could pick his opponent apart from the outside and prevent takedowns at the same time.
He'd probably knockout Nogueira.
Unfortunately, the world I currently reside in possesses blue skies, green grass and Stefan Struve's complete inability to fight tall. So rather than expect the impossible, let's settle for something a bit more realistic.
Struve's problem in his last bout -- a winnable match against Alistair Overeem -- was that he barely committed to any punches. If that happens in this fight, Struve will wind up on his back before long ... and he doesn't want to be there.
Instead, Struve needs to throw power shots whenever on his feet. He doesn't need more than a few clean connections to end Nogueira's night, and the Brazilian is no defensive master himself. If Struve does find himself on his back, he should simply stall until the fight is stood up or the round ends.
At 27 years old, Struve should have the conditioning edge after all.
Bottom Line: These two fighters are in the exact same position, although for different reasons. Nogueira is simply nearing the end of the winding road that is his extraordinary career, and the large amount of damage he's absorbed has taken its toll. While Struve is younger, he's more than 10 years and 30 fights into his career and has taken more than a few knockout losses of his own.
While a win won't make either fighter a contender, it does buy him some time. Both fighters are well-loved by fans, so there's plenty of hope that they can continue to compete, and a win will bolster that faith.
Alternatively, the loser will face more frequent calls for retirement, if not getting cut outright from UFC. It's a bad position to be in, so both men are surely fired up and motivated to get back into the win column.
At UFC 190, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Stefan Struve will fight for their UFC futures. Which man will remain standing when the dust settles?