Antonio Rogerio Nogueira will return after 14 months away from the sport as he takes on hungry light-heavyweight monster Anthony Johnson. Nogueira’s skillful submissions may win the day if he is able to drag this fight to the mat, but Johnson has that brutal one punch finishing power that comes from being a natural heavyweight.
Odd to think that Johnson once competed as a welterweight for the UFC, although he seldom made anywhere near 170 pounds. Another factoid for this scrap is that ‘Lil Nog’ has fought once in three years, whilst Johnson has seen nine bouts in that time. Well, without further ado, let’s see how these two UFC on Fox 12 co-main competitors stack up:
Back in the days of Pride FC, Nogueira was one of the most touted strikers in the promotion’s middleweight division. A former gold medallist in the Pan-Ams, ‘Lil Nog’ was known for his slick boxing skills, although only tallying six pro-MMA knockouts to date. Johnson, on the other hand, holds no formal striking credentials, but is a more natural banger.
‘Rumble’ has put 11 of 17 away by way of T/KO, and has never been knocked out as a pro, aside from a TKO due to injury. We’ve seen Nog’ banged out just once and rather spectacularly by Remeau Sokodjou back in 2007, at Pride 33. For me though, ‘Rumble’ has the kicks, punches, and overall power to dominate this fight on the feet. Add in cage rust, age and natural strength, and it was an easy call to make at 70-30 Johnson
As a former Junior College 174-pound wrestling champion, Johnson has the credentials on his side in this department. Not only that, the guy is built like a Sherman tank. The fact that notorious wrestling machine Phil Davis was unsuccessful in all eight of his takedown attempts on Johnson at UFC 172 tells you enough about ‘Rumble’s’ takedown defense.
By the same token, Nogueira was taken down four times by Davis when they fought, and has never really been that offensive with his wrestling. Though Johnson may not wish to sit in the guard of Nogueira, I feel like the option is much more at hand for ‘Rumble’ than it is for ‘Lil Nog’. Again, I’m calling it 70-30 Johnson
Here is where I feel Nogueira will want the fight to go down, whether he is on top or attacking from the guard. Submission losses to Josh Koscheck, Rich Clementi and Vitor Belfort all add to the probable gameplan of Nogueira, whom I feel is beaten on the feet. The only problem for ‘Lil Nog’ is how to get Johnson on the ground.
A third degree black belt in BJJ, and having never been submitted in MMA, I feel like Nogueira only has one choice in this fight; try and get Johnson in to a ground fight. The real worry there is that Johnson’s wrestling is above par, and I doubt he will willingly jump in to the guard of the Brazilian grappling ace. If he can get it there, I’d call it 70-30 Nogueira
This fight is intriguing for a number of reasons, but mainly to see if ‘Lil Nog’ still has what it takes to beat elite competition. As a die hard Pride fan, it pains me to see him enter such a hard fight after being injured and inactive for so long. That being said, a win for the unranked Nogueira would catapault him in to serious title talk. By the same token, a loss would mark the end of an epic career.