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UFC on FUEL 10: Big Nog v. Fabricio Werdum

Big Nog (L) takes on fellow Brazilian Fabricio Werdum this Saturday in Brazil. Screenshot courtesy UFC.com.

Rumour has it the legendary Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, or Big Nog, may be considering retirement after this fight in front of his Brazilian crowd. That alone should be enough for fans to tune in. His opponent, Fabricio Werdum, is himself a storied Brazilian fighter whose stand-up has improved drastically over the last few years.

Big Nog made a name for himself in PRIDE, where from 2001 to 2006 his only losses were decisions to Fedor Emilianenko, whom many consider the greatest heavyweight so far, and Josh Barnett. Big Nog avenged the latter. His wars with Fedor are legendary. Big Nog’s hardcore fans feel if the fights had been old-school no time limit, Big Nog would have eventually beaten Fedor, but that’s hearsay.

Big Nog is a BJJ wizard with high level boxing and a body made of old leather and shark cartilage. He’s not the boxer Junior dos Santos is, and recently lost by KO to Cain Velasquez and Frank Mir.  Mir  was the first to finish the Brazilian. Mir also broke Big Nog’s arm in a viscous submission during a rematch in which Nogueira failed to tap in time. All this has some pundits thinking it might be time for Big Nog to hang up the gloves and cup.

In 2007 Werdum, also a BJJ ace,  came into the UFC highly regarded,  till JdS floored him in round one with a brutal, perfectly timed uppercut that sent him packing. Werdum found a home in Strikeforce, and in 2010 became the first man to defeat and finish Fedor. After rejoining the UFC in 2012, Werdum looked sharp in a decision win over Roy Nelson and a TKO over Mike Russow.

In a loss  to Alistair Overeem in Strikeforce in 2011---a fight where Overeem looked unimpressive in his win--- Werdum was again incapable of besting an elite striker on the feet. So the outcome of his fight on Saturday with Big Nog depends upon preparation.

Big Nog is up to the task of assessing Werdum’s skill set and assigning tactics, but can the weathered fighter implement? On the flip side, Werdum’s rejuvenated striking---knees and bullying from the clinch up against the fence--- and size may be the difference here when coupled with Big Nog’s mileage.

If Big Nog isn’t on his way down, he certainly isn’t on his way up. He’s been around a long time and has been in more than a handful of wars, which take their toll. Look for Werdum to seriously test Big Nog before being knocked silly by a brilliantly timed and perfectly placed combo from midrange, one rooted in experience and character.

Big Nog is known for his warmth, compassion, and mentoring. It was he who stood up for Anderson Silva in PRIDE when forces surrounding the UFC’s current middleweight champion were nixing his career. Big Nog is no Ali, but his heart and personality are every bit as impressive as his fight career.

If and when the legend does retire, we can only hope to see him regularly in some capacity.

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Follow me on Twitter @RenkoStyranka

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