Mike Drahota: This is an absolutely great matchup for Brazilian fans in Rio. Obviously both fighters are world-class BJJ practitioners, so I think it’s going to be very tough for either to find a submission. Therefore, it’s going to largely come down to what transpires on the feet. Big Nog has actually looked pretty good over the past couple years with his boxing, especially against Brendan Schaub and Frank Mir (before his elbow was turned the wrong direction). However, Fabricio Werdum has absolutely taken his striking skills to another level recently. Having obtained his Muay Thai black belt from his master Rafael Cordeiro, Werdum now has the power and technique to match his standup with his top-level ground game.
I know that Nogueira will show up ready to put it all on the line, but I think that the younger Werdum is just a bit faster, hungrier, and more talented at this point in their respective careers. An impressive win may put Werdum in line for a title shot. I’ll say he wins a unanimous decision in a great battle this Saturday, and his title shot still lies a top-five win away.
Rory Kernaghan: Nogueira vs. Werdum is a very intriguing matchup. Both guys are renowned for their Jiu-Jitsu skills and a few years ago Nog had light years on Werdum, as far as striking is concerned. But Werdum seems to have moved with the times, evolving with the sport and becoming more well rounded. His last two wins showcased his Muay Thai and boxing skills-which will certainly be put to the test against Nogueira. Big Nog has some heavy hands to go with his masters degree in grappling, so expect to see some real crisp boxing form the former Pride FC and UFC champion. Funnily enough I have a gut feeling that this fight will take place mainly on the feet. Werdum is growing more confident in his striking abilities and Nogueira is known for his boxing. I expect the fight to go to the ground when Nogueira clips Werdum, which he will. Look for a stunned Werdum to fall victim to an anaconda choke late in round 2!
Bryan Fontez: This fight is less about relevance and more about looking into the future. Nogueira is a hell of a fighter and has accomplished amazing things, there’s no doubt he’s declining rapidly given the amount of damage he’s sustained over the years. His chin and body may be giving out on him but his heart remains. With that said, Werdum seems to have reinvented himself entirely and has his eye on achieving greatness. The Muay Thai striking and clinch work he’s displayed in his last few fights has been very impressive, couple that with his elite grappling skills and you have a big lean heavyweight who could defeat anyone in the division if given the time, focus and dedication. Werdum could end this with a KO, but I’m going to say Nogueira wants to give the fans a show, his heart pulls through and he takes a 25-minute beating from Werdum, who wins via unanimous decision.