In so many ways, UFC 198 is a celebration of Brazilian MMA.
For starters, this will be the largest event the UFC has hosted in the country. There is incredible homegrown talent representing nearly every weight class on this stacked card. The main event features a Brazilian heavyweight champion, with a litany of former champions, challengers and possible title contenders all throughout the matchups.
But no Brazilian MMA party would be complete without a Nogueira present.
Of course, former interim UFC heavyweight champion “Minotauro” Nogueira did retire this past September. Thankfully, the world was blessed with two Nogueiras, and Rogerio Nogueira will be in action against Patrick Cummins at Arena da Baixada in Curitiba this Saturday.
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“I'm very motivated about fighting here,” Nogueira said. “It's the first event in Curitiba. They filled a soccer stadium in less than a day. It's going to be a great show with a great card. It's an honor to be fighting in this event.”
The honor will be all ours as the famed BJJ black belt and former Pan American Games bronze medalist in boxing tangles with the two-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler. It’s an interesting scrap on paper given their backgrounds, but it’s also a pivotal tilt as it’s the No. 10-ranked Nogueira versus the No. 11-ranked Cummins.
“He is a good fighter, a strong wrestler, and he has strong legs,” Nogueira said. “I think he will try to attack and take me down, but I have a good game plan to take out his wrestling. He will try to take me down and he will trade some shots, as he is training at Kings [MMA gym]. If he takes me down, I will have a chance to show my jiu-jitsu.”
At 39 years old with a 21-7 pro record that includes a 4-4 slate in the UFC, it’s easy to think of the Nogueira brothers as being one in the same since they are twins and have been fan favorites for many years. So with “Big Nog” retired, many might wrongly assume “Lil’ Nog” is at that stage in his career as well. But Nogueira’s only definitive loss came in 2014 to the current No. 2-ranked UFC light heavyweight, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson.
After 13 months on the shelf, Nogueira returned with a closely contested Fight of the Night rematch against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in the co-main event at UFC 190 last August.
“My mindset was that I expected a good fight and it was a great fight,” Nogueira said. “Maybe the time off had an effect, but I think that I won the first and third rounds and lost the second. The result was not what I expected, but it was a great fight. We both like to box and use our hands in the fight, and we like to stand and strike. It was great, I liked fighting in Brazil. It was relaxing and close to my home. Keeping a good fighting rhythm is important because staying away for too long takes a toll. So fighting often makes a difference.”
The scorecards read 29-28 for Shogun, but many fans and media alike agreed with Nogueira’s own assessment. Almost all of the 15 minutes played out as a stand-up scrap, with Nogueira using his fists to land more significant strikes than the Muay Thai kickboxing specialist. And the closing moments of the bout saw Rua defending a deep guillotine choke attempt by Nogueira.
If anything, those two weapons of Nogueira could or should be the determining factor against Cummins. Already amassing 30 takedowns in just seven appearances, Cummins has proven to be an adept takedown artist inside the Octagon, but he has also suffered all three of his UFC losses by knockout when he has failed to keep the fight on the floor. It should come as no surprise that Nogueira, with his memorable first-round knockouts of Tito Ortiz and Luiz Cane, will be aiming to keep this fight on the feet and finish it there.
“For sure, I will try to knock him out,” he said. “Strategically, it's better because the risk of falling on the bottom and getting tired is big. He tries to tie up the fight and shorten the distance. I will move forward and attack. The fans can expect an exciting fight.”
This Saturday, light heavyweights will collide as Nogueira takes on Cummins. As every Brazilian MMA bash needs a Nogueira, expect Rogerio to attempt to provide the fireworks for a big knockout win.