Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight vererans Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Stefan Struve battled last night (Aug. 1, 2015) at UFC 190 inside HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
While it's clear that Nogueira's career is coming to an end -- a statement that could be applied to either brother -- the Brazilian is doing his damnedest to hang around. By taking out Struve, Nogueira could buy himself another couple fights.
Similarly, Struve needed victory to prove himself a worthy member of the roster. Between his knockout losses and health issues, Struve's future was anything but secure.
Nogueira wasted little time, landing a clean left hook and moving into the clinch immediately. Nogueira looked for takedowns from within the clinch, but Struve defended nicely.
Once Struve managed to create some distance, he quickly cracked "Big Nog" with a hard right hand. Nogueira quickly returned to the clinch, but Struve managed to break away and land once again just moments later, hurting the legendary heavyweight.
Whenever there was distance between the two men, Struve would begin to land hard kicks and punches. However, old habits die hard, as Nogueira managed to connect with punches a majority of the time he pushed forward.
Despite his still-awful defense, Struve likely earned the round.
Nogueira started the second round by cracking the lengthy Dutchman with a right hand and moving into the clinch. This time, Nogueira managed to land a takedown directly into back mount, though Struve managed to scramble back to his feet quickly.
Back in the center of the cage, both men landed just about every strike they threw. While Nogueira's right hands were certainly worrying for fans of "The Skyscraper," Struve's kicks and uppercuts were definitely the harder shots landed.
It was close, but Struve managed to edge the round once more.
Struve opened the round with a nice combination and defended takedown. He began to really find his range, particularly with kicks, digging front kicks into the mid-section and chopping at Nogueira's legs repeatedly. Despite this, Nogueira walked through the shots without issue, living up to his reputation as an insanely tough fighter.
In fact, even Struve's defensive movement was a bit better in this fight. He still got hit, but Struve actually managed to maintain his range a bit and angle off after landing some shots. It wasn't anything crazy, but that's more improvement in fighting tall than Struve has shown in the last five years.
All in all, Struve fought a pretty good fight. His flaws are still more than obvious -- and will get him hurt against a heavy puncher -- but he's clearly working at them. Heavyweight is a weird division filled with career resurgences, so Struve shouldn't be count out just yet.
In addition, Struve's kickboxing game really did look better than ever. It's clear that his work with Henri Hooft is really benefiting him. Struve's kicks looked absolutely nasty, and against a fighter that isn't made of rough leather, they would've had a major effect.
Hopefully, Struve takes some time to grow in training before his next fight, rather than hopping back into the cage immediately. He already has enough fights to be considered a veteran, so he doesn't need the in-cage experience. Instead, Struve should keep working with Hooft, and further develop his kicking and defense.
This was a pretty classic Nogueira performance, except without his comeback. For three rounds, Nogueira absorbed serious amounts of damage and ignored it. His chin definitely isn't glass like some claim, as the Brazilian was hammered by some nasty right hands.
Unfortunately, the problems that plagued Nogueira during his Pride FC days still exist. His boxing is not particularly sharp or powerful, and his wrestling -- which was never an elite part of his game -- has declined considerably. Nogueira simply doesn't have a fast shot anymore.
After this loss, many will look for Nogueira to retire, but that won't happen. Instead, the Brazilian will scrap with an inexperienced heavyweight or fellow aged veteran, such as Mirko Filipovic.
Last night, Stefan Struve showcased his improved kickboxing by picking apart "Minotauro" Nogueira. Can Struve finally put his game together and make a run.
For complete UFC 190: "Rousey vs Correia" live results and play-by-play, click HERE!