Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira: UFC’s Unsung Champion

September 26, 2008

by Jad Semaan…
Though he holds the interim heavyweight belt, for all intents and purposes, Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira may soon be known as the undisputed UFC Heavyweight Champion.

Despite the news that official champion Randy Couture is returning to the Octagon to defend his belt against Brock Lesnar on November 15, the match-up between Noguiera and Frank Mir in December will still be contested for the interim title.

The winners will then unify the belt later on in 2009. Whoever emerges from this four-man “tournament” unscathed will undoubtedly be regarded as the no.1 fighter in the UFC heavyweight division.

Nogueira has been proverbially flying under the radar since his debut in the UFC in July 2007, when he beat Heath Herring for the third time. He has fought only once since then, against Tim Sylvia last February for the interim title. However, compared to all the other UFC belt-holders, it seems that he has been receiving the least publicity.

It seems that most of the media’s attention has been focused on fan-favorites such as BJ Penn, Georges St. Pierre, Anderson Silva, and the UFC’s stacked light-heavyweight division. However, this is mostly because Nogueira is not as well-acquainted with casual American MMA fans, having spent most of his career fighting in Japan. He has a large following in his home country of Brazil and in the Far East.

Noguiera’s popularity in the Northwest hemisphere will undoubtedly increase after the airing of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Noguiera vs. Team Mir. The show’s eighth installment features the lightweight (155 lb) and light-heavyweight (205lb) divisions.

It was confirmed that Nogueira brought in fellow Black House training fighters Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida to train his stable of fighters. Running on national television, the program is as much a showcase of the personalities and careers of the coaches as it is a breeding-ground for emerging UFC talent.

There exists a simple fact, known by devoted fight fans around the world, and is worth repeating here for those who aren’t as well-informed. The fact: if it wasn’t for a certain Fedor Emelianenko, then Nogueira would be regarded as the greatest fighter in the world and of all time.

Of course, if it wasn’t for a few select figures, then history would have turned out a lot differently. Still, it must be very difficult to accept being second-best at anything, especially an individual professional sport such as mixed martial arts.

Nogueira had to learn this lesson the hard way when he lost to Emelianenko twice in PRIDE FC: once where he relinquished his heavyweight title and a second time which was for the title and the heavyweight Grand Prix Tournament Championship. Both outcomes were resolved via unanimous decision from the judges. They fought to a No Contest in between these matches, where the fight was stopped due to a cut from an accidental head butt by Noguiera.

Other than those two defeats, Nogueira has losses to Dan Henderson and Josh Barnett. But he avenged those setbacks decisively, and the only remaining blemishes on his record are the fights with Emelianenko. If the Russian phenom had pursued a different career path, Nogueira would be rated as the No. 1 fighter on the planet right now.

Nogueira became PRIDE’s first heavyweight champion in 2001, and for the next two years was the most feared fighter in all of MMA. He has arguably the most impressive resume of any heavyweight fighter, even more so than Emelianenko.

The Brazilian fighter has wins over Fabricio Werdum, Josh Barnett, Tim Sylvia, Bob Sapp, Heath Herring (x3), , if any, can match the quality of competition that Nogueira has faced.

“Minotauro” is known for his legendary chin and inhuman durability, having never been knocked out or even finished in 37 fights. In fact, not even a truck could put him away, because as a child he was literally run over by a truck.

He spent four days in a coma and eleven months in the hospital before being released. The accident left a huge scar visible on Nogueira’s back, which is the easiest way to distinguish him from his twin brother, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Rogerio is commonly referred to as “Little Nog,” and competes in MMA’s light-heavyweight division.
Nogueira has exceptional jiu-jitsu, with 19 of his 31 wins coming by way of submission. He may not have the best pure jiu-jitsu in the world, but has adapted it to MMA like few others. “Big Nog” also has underrated technical striking and good wrestling ability, with a solid clinch game.
The amount of physical punishment that Nogueira has absorbed throughout his career is simply inhuman, yet he keeps coming back and winning. He had a cataract in one of his eyes, and after having it removed, is reported as only having 20 percent vision in that eye. He is beating top-flight competition while literally half-blind.
Minotauro is known to take a thrashing early on in his fights, eventually wearing out his opponent and then submitting them or winning by decision. His epic battle with Bob “The Beast” Sapp is a perfect example of this tendency, where Sapp performed a pile driver on Nogueira that would have paralyzed most human beings. Noguiera eventually arm-barred the 6′ 5″ 375 lb. giant, but only after a brutal four minutes of being punched in the face.

It remains to be seen how much longer Nogueira’s body can hold out, as he is 32 right now and has been fighting for nearly a decade. After the wars that he has been through, “Minotauro” has probably taken the equivalent amount of punishment that 30 years in the ring for an average fighter would entail.

Dedicated fans of Noguiera commonly invoke a proverb which goes like this: “Minotauro” doesn’t lose fights, he simply runs out of time (to submit his opponent). While this may be a light-hearted celebration of Noguiera’s record more than anything, it does make one think: would the Brazilian be able to submit Emelianenko if they fought without a time limit?

Though it is unlikely that Noguiera will get another chance to avenge his losses, perhaps the MMA powers-that-be will make a singular exception to the rules and let this dream match happen. Then again, maybe it’s best to stay within the confines of reality and leave such speculation to the fantasies of the imagination.

Nogueira’s illustrious career was made in Japan but his tenure in America is just beginning. His appearance on The Ultimate Fighter 8 will be his coming-out party, so to speak. Sure, he gained popular acclaim stateside after beating Tim Sylvia, but his career in the UFC will really take off after this season airs and if he unifies the title.

Currently listed as the No. 2 heavyweight in the world by most rankings, it is a wonder why Noguiera is hardly included in any pound-for-pound debates. Among fighters who aren’t ranked No. 1 in their division, he is the best of the rest, and deserving of a place in the top 10 P4P ranking.

Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira may not be a household name, but just like how he finishes his opponents, it is only a matter of time before he gets the acclaim in North America that he deserves.

Wake Up With Nicky Whelan

September 26, 2008

by The Captain… Now tell me, does anybody out there look as good as Nicky in a bikini? I say no way… this smoking hottie sure knows how to pose in them. I think she lives in them, not that I’m complaining. When you have a body like that you should, I say you must, show it off! Have a wonderful weekend in this wonderful world from the gang at TOsports, send us an email, as to whom you would want to Wake UP With!
I’m off to do some fishing, no not that kind, well, always fishing for sometin’ NOME SAME? This weekend I’m “KING OF THE LAKE”
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