Fight day is here! As I get set for my fight at UFC 140 Saturday night, I take great confidence from the belief that I have more ways to win than my opponent Antonio (Minotauro) Nogueira. Although a great fighter in his own right, I truly don’t think “Big Nog” has the same options as me going into this fight.
Let me explain. If I’m not happy with the way the fight is going on my feet, I have the option of taking it to the floor and maintaining control there, and the same applies if I’m unhappy with how my grappling is working out. Nogueira will have to be resigned to do whatever I want him to do in this fight.
Sure, he can fight me jiu-jitsu versus jiu-jitsu, but if there comes a point where he doesn’t like what’s going on down there, he’s not going to be able to change that. I can change where this fight takes place, he can’t. If he starts getting hurt on his feet in a striking battle, I really don’t see how he is going to take me down and take me away from what I was doing with punches and kicks.
I think he will have trained for me differently, simply because he now knows what he knows following our first encounter in December 2008. There isn’t that surprise element anymore with regards to my striking. He tasted the striking firsthand in ’08 and has since seen me use that same striking to beat the likes of Mirko Cro Cop.
He knows I can handle myself on my feet and that I have no fear of using my striking to dominate an opponent. I can guarantee Nogueira wouldn’t have been thinking like that going into our first fight. Obviously, I’d be shocked if Nogueira turned up on Saturday night and underestimated me for a second time. I just don’t think that is likely to happen.
He will have trained to fight a very good striker — someone who got the better of him at striking before — and will probably assume that I will look to use my striking again this time around.
It would make a lot of sense for Nogueira to realize what happened last time and shoot for a takedown or pull guard fairly quickly in this rematch. I’m sure that’s what most of us are expecting him to do. The first fight between us wasn’t exactly a competitive striking match, and it would seem that he would be better served taking this rematch to the floor and looking to utilize his jiu-jitsu a bit more.
However, Nogueira is a fighter known for his incredible heart and pride, and sometimes those two things can combine to make you do foolish things in the Octagon. He is gunning for revenge on Saturday night, and there’s a very good chance that heart and pride will force him to stand, trade and get beaten up on his feet again for a second time. Who knows?
One thing’s for sure, Nogueira will always come to fight and he will always give you 100 per cent. When times get tough and he feels a fight slipping away, he always reverts to type and looks to make things into a war. That is fantastic for the fans, but it doesn’t always work out so well for Nogueira.
When you prepare to fight a guy like Nogueira, you have to ensure that you are in great physical condition and that you are ready to bite down and go to war at some stage in the fight. Even if you are on top and dominating every inch of that Octagon, Nogueira will still be in there swinging for the fences. That is something I am wary of, and something I respect about Nogueira.
Ultimately, I see us both stepping to the centre of the Octagon on Saturday night with a point to prove. Nogueira will look to show the world that the only reason he lost to me first time around was because of an injury, while I’ll be out to show everybody that the only reason I beat Nogueira in our first match was because I am by far the better fighter.
He will be desperate, whereas I will be relaxed, safe in the knowledge that I am going to be the fighter who will control every aspect of this rematch.
I fully expect Nogueira to come out hard to begin with, flurry a few punches and then look for a takedown at the first available opportunity. When that doesn’t work, he will become resigned to the fact that he can’t take me down and then face up to the fact that I am the more proficient striker. He will try with all his might to get the better of me in the striking battle, but it could get ugly again. I think I will keep on landing consistently on his face, until he is either knocked out or stopped on his feet.
I really don’t see this fight looking any different to how it did in 2008…