The big heavyweight fight between Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Brendan Schaub at UFC 134: Rio just got a little bit bigger.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Brendan Schaub

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Brendan Schaub

UFC president Dana White, at a special press conference on Thursday in Brazil, announced that the winner between the two big men puts himself right in line to face the winner of the fight between UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos. That fight is expected to take place sometime this fall.

“This is a big fight in the heavyweight division,” said White in announcing Nogueira vs. Schaub.

“We just saw what happened last week with Junior dos Santos. He won his fight and will now face Cain Velasquez for the heavyweight championship. The winner of this fight between Big Nog and Brendan Schaub puts one of these guys right in the mix of the heavyweight division.”

Nogueira (32-6-1) has been out of action for a year and a half, undergoing three surgeries to deal with issues in his knees and hips. Nogueira’s last time in the Octagon was a knockout loss to Velasquez, so getting a victory over Schaub would move him a step closer to a shot at avenging that loss.

Schaub (8-1) lacks a lot in experience relative to Nogueira, but he’s been tearing up the heavyweight division since losing to Roy Nelson in the tenth season finale of “The Ultimate Fighter.” He has reeled off four consecutive victories, including wins over Gabriel Gonzaga and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, showing marked improvement each time out. Defeating Nogueira would solidify him as one of the UFC’s upper echelon heavyweights.

White fell short of saying that the winner of the fight at UFC 134: Rio would be granted the next title shot. The UFC has also been under mounting pressure from fans and media alike to put the winner of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix up against the UFC’s heavyweight champion.

Zuffa, the UFC’s parent company, recently acquired Strikeforce and signed its welterweight champion, Nick Diaz, to fight UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Strikeforce tournament winner could crossover into the Octagon.

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Ken Pishna is the managing editor of
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