Finally finding a home at light heavyweight, Anthony Johnson will seek his eighth straight win against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in the co-main event of this weekend's (Sat., July 26, 2014) UFC on FOX 12 from San Jose, California. Will he "Rumble" over another foe, or can "Lil Nog" somehow score another upset? Read our fight preview to find out!
This Saturday night (July 26, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweights Anthony Johnson and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira will square off in the co-main event of UFC on FOX 12, airing live at 8 p.m. ET from SAP Center in San Jose, California.
No. 5-ranked Johnson was last seen dismantling Phil Davis in a one-sided decision at April's UFC 172. A former welterweight and middleweight, "Rumble" put his struggles on the scale behind him, settling in at 205 pounds to win his last seven mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts.
With the light heavyweight title to be contested in September's 27 UFC 178 main event between Jon Jones and new title challenger Daniel Cormier, "Rumble's" path to a title shot goes through crafty veteran Nogueira.
Despite his storied history in the sport, however, unranked "Lil Nog" has been the picture of inconsistency throughout his UFC career. Out of action since his upset win over Rashad Evans at UFC 156 way back in February 2013, Nogueira was most recently rumored to be facing Alexander Gustafsson at this past March's UFC Fight Night 37 in London.
He didn't fight due to injury, but Nogueira said the UFC never even contacted him about the bout in the first place.
Add those to his prior withdrawals from fights with Gustafsson at UFC on Fuel TV 2 Mauricio Rua at UFC 161, and even Rich Franklin at UFC 133, and it's tough to explain why Nogueira is in the enviable position that he is right now.
But all that doesn't really matter. He's either cannon fodder for "Rumble's" continued rise, or the maddening veteran will somehow reinsert him himself into the UFC light heavyweight title picture.
Either way, were going to have a fun time watching. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Johnson vs. Nogueira:
Record: 17-4 overall, 8-4 UFC
Key Wins: Phil Davis (UFC 172), Andrei Arlovski (WSOF 2), Dan Hardy (UFC Fight Night 24), Mike Kyle (WSOF 8), David Branch (Titan FC 22),
Key Losses: Vitor Belfort (UFC 142), Josh Koscheck (UFC 109)
Keys to Victory: With a background as an NJCAA National Champion wrestler, "Rumble" brings the power and toughness of a top-level athlete to the Octagon. His motivation has been in question in the past, but once he had to work his way back up to UFC in smaller shows, he decided to stop all the weight cutting nonsense.
That has paid big dividends for him, because now he can come to the cage with the power of a runaway freight train.
His striking has always been his most dangerous tool, but now's it become truly top shelf. By sharpening it with the likes of Evans and elite kickboxer Tyrone Spong at South Florida's Jaco Hybrid Training Center, "Rumble" has the ability to knock out anyone foolish enough to sign on to fight him.
Nogueira has only been knocked out once in over 13 years, but that won't stop Johnson from attempting to become the second. He's won 11 of his 21 total victories by striking stoppage, and his stand-up game is simply on another level right now.
Johnson will be throwing an extensive arsenal of power hooks, combinations, and his vaunted head kicks Nogueira's way in an effort to end this fight early.
The one area where Johnson could potentially have trouble with Nogueira is on the ground. "Rumble" has never submitted an opponent, but he has been tapped out three times himself. Against an accomplished Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt like Nogueira, that could spell surprising doom, so it's clear that Johnson wants to use his wrestling skills to keep this fight standing.
Nogueira is far from a slouch on the feet, but "Rumble" is a beast of a different kind.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Record: 21-5 overall, 4-2 UFC
Key Wins: Rashad Evans (UFC 156), Tito Ortiz (UFC 140), Alistair Overeem (Pride Critical Countdown Absolute, Pride 29), Dan Henderson (Pride Total Elimination 2005), Kazushi Sakuraba (Pride Shockwave 2003)
Key Losses: Mauricio Rua (Pride Critical Countdown 2005), Phil Davis (UFC Fight Night 24), Ryan Bader (UFC 119)
Keys to Victory: Seasoned veteran Nogueira brings a very solid set of boxing accolades, including, among several others, a super heavyweight boxing gold medal at the 2006 South American Games.
He's boasted that his boxing is better than Johnson's in a recent interview, but this isn't a boxing match. "Rumble's" headhunting power will be no joke come fight time, and "Lil Nog" has a laundry list of questions to answer about his health.
Nogueira has to show up close to fully healthy, which may not be an actual possibility for him. If he doesn't, the odds makers would have you believe that there's a very distinct chance that "Rumble" puts his lights out despite Nogueira's iron chin.
For that reason, "Lil Nog" should look to get this fight to the ground at all costs. It won't be easy given that Johnson stuffed all of four of NCAA Division I Champion Davis' takedowns at UFC 172, but he can't give up hope.
That'll just lead to another highlight reel knockout, so Nogueira has to use his boxing and footwork to land some effective shots of his own while avoiding Johnson's power shots before transitioning that into some hopeful takedown attempts.
If he can somehow get this fight to the ground, a world of potentially dangerous submission opportunities will open up. Based on "Johnson's recent form, that's a lot of variables that have to play out in the hobbled "Lil Nog's" favor, so he has his work cut out for him.
Bottom Line from San Jose: The bottom line for this fight is that it's seemingly another stepping-stone for the reinvented "Rumble" to showcase his skills on the way towards a perceived UFC light heavyweight title shot.
Of course, "Lil Nog" can put an end to all that by scoring a second straight shocker over a Blackzilians team member, and this one would be even more surprising than the first. But he'll have to beat a "Rumble" that is finally living up to his massive potential, and that's a tall task.
With solid hands, dangerous jiu-jitsu, and legendary toughness, Nogueira is solid all around. However, the 38-year-old has an insanely dangerous opponent to come back against after nearly 18 months off.
Johnson is poised and ready to prove that he can rise to the top of the UFC ranks. He's had a chip on his shoulder ever since he was released from the Octagon following his UFC 142 loss to Belfort, and if he puts forth his best effort, Nogueira is in for a long (or short, depending on how you look at it) night. Enjoy the fight.
Back in UFC with a vengeance, Anthony Johnson looks to continue building his mountainous momentum by defeating elder statesman "Lil Nog" at UFC on FOX 12. Has Rumble's" time arrived?