Antonio Rogerio ‘Minotoro’ Nogueira made an immediate impact in his debut at UFC 106 as he handed Luiz Arthur Cane the first genuine defeat of his mixed martial arts career, and took home the ‘Knockout Of The Night’ award. Let’s take a closer look at the career to date of this fighter who could be set to make a major impact in the UFC’s light heavyweight division.
After fighting mainly in Japan (including 10 fights in PRIDE) for the majority of his career, Rogerio has finally joined the sports biggest promotion at a relatively late stage in his career. Now 33 years old, he carries a professional record of 18-3 and has fought some of the sports best known stars including Dan Henderson, Alistair Overeem (twice), and Maurcio ‘Shogun’ Rua.
He is currently associated with the Black House stable where he has the luxury of formidable training partners like Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida and of course his brother Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Part of what makes Rogerio such a challenging opponent is that he is dangerous both on his feet and on the ground. To date he claims five knockouts and six submissions among his eighteen victories. Let’s take a look at his key skills more closely.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Like his twin brother, former Pride champion and UFC interim heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Rogerio is a submission specialist holding a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. In the early part of his career BJJ would play an important part in establishing his reputation. In particular the armbar has often been his weapon of choice, utilizing it to gain victories in his first two professional bouts, and later defeating both Kazuhiro Nakamura and Dan Henderson by the same method in PRIDE.
The Dan Henderson fight in particular gives a good showcase of the Brazilian’s well rounded skills. Rogerio is comfortable striking with the heavy-handed American throughout the fight, but what’s more impressive is how he deals with Henderson when the fight goes to the mat.
On your back is often the last place you want to be against a dominant wrestler like Dan Henderson but Nogueira uses his BJJ to good effect, both to nullify the majority of his ground & pound attack, and to remain an offensive threat himself. Later he shows equally slick technique from top position as he initially goes for the kimura and then transitions into the armbar to earn the victory.
It’s a fight that gives a good insight into how Nogueira could fit in at the very top of the LHW division. Watch the full bout below…
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is not the only string to Rogerio’s bow however. He also has experience as an amateur boxer and has won several championships since 2006 in his native Brazil and across South America.
Despite this there are some who would question whether he is a real power puncher, with several of his fights going the distance, particularly early in his career. It is however interesting to note that his success in the boxing ring in recent times appears to have coincided with an increase in the number of knockout victories on his MMA record.
In the first 13 fights of his pro career Rogerio failed to finish a fight inside the distance with strikes. Since 2006 things have changed, and five of his last seven victories have come via TKO or KO. They include a technical knockout of current Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem in Pride, a demolition of former UFC fighter Edwin Dewees in Affliction, and of course his most recent KO of light heavyweight prospect Luiz Arthur Cane.
His latest victory was all the more impressive considering the fact that it was his debut for the UFC and Cane had never been stopped before (his only loss having come by way of a DQ).
After the fight Dana White is reported to have congratulated Nogueira and told him, “Do you have the idea who you just defeated? The man we were about to match as the next contender for the belt.”
Sometimes you can tell more about a fighter in defeat than in victory. Rogerio’s first loss came in his fourth pro fight back in 2002 when he fought UFC veteran Vladimir Matyushenko. On that occasion he would lose via unanimous decision, but nearly seven years later he would gain his revenge by knocking out ‘The Janitor’ with a knee strike at Affliction: Day Of Reckoning.
The second of his three losses came against the man many people believe should be the current light heavyweight champion – Mauricio Shogun Rua. Fighting his fellow Brazilian in PRIDE just two months after beating Dan Henderson, it turned out to be a classic bout that is believed to be one of the best fights in the history of the organization.
Sit back and watch the fight for yourself below…
Again Rogerio would be on the wrong side of a judges decision, but there was much to admire about his performance as he knocked down Rua in the first, survived a knockdown of his own in the third. He also demonstrated his resilience from his back, surviving an onslaught of flying foot stomps and soccer kicks (legal in PRIDE, not in the UFC) and stayed active offensively, including attempting his favored armbar several times during the battle.
The third and most decisive loss in Nogueira’s career to date came two fights later against Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou. After only 23 seconds of the first round at PRIDE 33 he lay knocked out after paying the price for dropping his hands getting caught with a less than technical, but undeniably effective left hook from ‘The African Assassin’.
To his credit Nogueira didn’t get discouraged by the K.O and has since went six fights undefeated in promotions like Affliction, Sengoko and of course most recently the UFC.
After his most recent win the future looks bright for Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Already ranked as a top ten light heavyweight, another one or two impressive performances could well establish him as the top contender in the division.
Just how long it will take may depend on circumstances outside of his control. For instance an obvious fight to make is a rematch with Shogun Rua. If Rua were to win the title in his rematch against Lyoto Machida then that’s a fight the UFC may look to put on sooner rather than later.
On the other hand if Rua were to lose then the rematch would still be a no-brainer, putting another obstacle in Rogerio’s way before earning a title shot.
With Machida Vs Shogun 2 not taking place until May 1st, Nogueira is however certain to fight again in the mean time.
Of the available options a bout with Forrest Griffin stands out. It would afford him the chance to take on an established star, and one who he matches up with favorably. Another scenario would be to have him fight the winner of Rashad Evans Vs Thiago Silva which takes place at UFC 108 in January. A win over either would lend further credibility to his push to become the No.1 contender in the division.
Whatever happens it is apparent that the UFC has significantly enhanced the options at the top end of the LHW division with the addition of Antonio Rodrigo ‘Minotoro’ Nogueira. With his well rounded, technical skills, years of experience and possessing the famed Nogueira toughness, he is as dangerous as any of the top contenders in the division at this moment in time.
Article by RossC
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