Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight veterans Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Mauricio Rua will battle one final time this Saturday (July 25, 2020) at UFC on ESPN 14 from Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
This is one of the stranger fights I’ve ever been tasked with previewing. Despite the advanced age of each fighter — the two PRIDE icons were in their prime roughly around 2005 — they still tend to win more often than not! That’s a somewhat depressing fact for the rest of the Light Heavyweight division, but there two legends deserve credit for sticking around too. Furthermore, this is a rubber match in which one man (Rua) won both previous bouts. That’s unusual, but it grows even stranger when the second match happened far after anyone really wanted to see it ... and it’s been five years since then!
There’s little else to do but embrace the weirdness and hope for the best. Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Key Wins: Rashad Evans (UFC 156), Alistair Overeem (Pride FC Critical Countdown, Pride FC 29), Patrick Cummins (UFC 198), Tito Ortiz (UFC 140), Sam Alvey (UFC Fight Night 137)
Key Losses: Ryan Bader (UFC Fight Night 100, UFC 119), Mauricio Rua (UFC 190, Pride Critical Countdown 2005), Phil Davis (UFC Fight Night 24), Ryan Spann (UFC 237)
Keys to Victory: In his prime, Nogueira was a dangerous Southpaw boxer with really slick jiu-jitsu. Fast-forward 15 or so years, and Nogueira doesn’t really do much grappling anymore, but he’s still a ruggedly effective leftie who can surprise opponents with his power.
In their 2015 rematch, Nogueira was actually the man landing better punches, to the point that “Shogun” turned to his takedowns to shift momentum back to his corner and steal the decision. Both men are performing at roughly the same level as that contest, so it’s reasonable to assume the two still hold similar advantages opposite one another.
For Nogueira, his important adjustment is to deny the takedown. In that regard, he’s already at something of an advantage, as Rua had the element of surprise in his corner with the sudden takedown attempts last time out. This time, “Lil Nog” should at least be aware that a clinch trip may be coming.
Otherwise, I’d like to see Nogueira patiently moving forward behind his 1-2. In recent wins, Nogueira has done major damage by backing his foe into the fence and slugging, so boxing Rua into a corner of the fence seems like a wise strategy.
Key Wins: Corey Anderson (UFC 198), Tyson Pedro (UFC Fight Night 142), Gian Villante (UFC Fight Night 106), Lyoto Machida (UFC 113), Forrest Griffin (UFC 134)
Key Losses: Jon Jones (UFC 128), Anthony Smith (UFC Fight Night 134), Dan Henderson (UFC 139, UFC Fight Night 38), Ovince St. Preux (UFC Fight Night 56)
Keys to Victory: Rua may be far removed from his athletic prime, but he’s consistently picked up some quality wins over the years anyway. In this latter part of his career, “Shogun” has grown more patient, but fortunately he still hits brutally hard even late in the fight.
Each time Rua fights, his fans wait with baited breath to see if Rua is going to patiently kick and counter or rush into a slugfest. Since like 2013, Rua succeeds far more often with the former than the latter, but it’s always a question toward which strategy “Shogun” will lean.
Against a fairly plodding boxer in Nogueira, it would be really great to see Rua attack the legs and mid-section. Making a slow fighter even slower would greatly benefit “Shogun,” who can still sling back heavy counter punches with the best of them. As such, it would be great to see an evasive Rua throwing kicks, trying to line up a big shot as Nogueira marches forward.
It’s a legends bout.
For Nogueira, he’s already announced this will be his final bout before retirement. Obviously, going out on a win would be ideal, particularly against a respected foe in Rua who owns two previous victories over “Lil Nog.” At the same time, would Nogueira lose any status for taking another loss to a fellow legend at 44 years of age?
As for Rua, the 38-year-old is probably considering retirement in the near future as well, but ... he keeps winning! “Shogun” is 4-1-1 over the last five years and is still a ranked contender. His position as a gatekeeper to the division’s upper echelon remains unchanged, though, and neither a victory nor defeat to an old foe is really going to shift his position much.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on ESPN 14 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+/ESPN “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+/ESPN at 8 p.m. ET.
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At UFC on ESPN 14, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Mauricio Rua will duel one more time. Which man will earn the victory?