Anthony Johnson looks to impress once again at his natural weight in the 205lb division against Antonio Rogerio 'Lil Nog' Nogeuria. Can Nog pull off the +455 upset?
Anthony Johnson vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogeuria Light Heavyweight
I still can't decide if this is a good fight or not.
It's a good fight between two fighters who make the bout feel like they rode in on a Delorean.
In one corner: the former WW Josh Koscheck victim, and in the other...former punchline to Rameau Sokoudjou's career. It's an unlikely matchup in the most metaphysical of ways.
Nog is +455. Sounds like the oddsmakers think it's an awful one with an obvious winner.
The man they call "Lil Nog" has always been a little more enigmatic than his surname suggests. Or his record for that matter. When he came over from Pride, I don't think even the hardcore fans ever thought of him as an important piece of the UFC takeover except for maybe the minority of MMA hipsters. After all, he was the guy who "should have beat Shogun at Critical Countdown". That was nonsense of course, but other than putting on a great show against Shogun in a competitive fight, he had two wins over Alistiar Overeem (still respected at 205 at the time even though the losses were beginning to pile up), Dan Henderson (has Dan ever looked worse?), and Kazushi Sakuraba. He had always been really good, but never someone put in a position to reveal his real worth with any consistency.
Even now, I'm not sure of his real identity (metaphorically). I didn't expect him to beat Rashad Evans to be honest. At the time I thought it was a strange matchup that Evans might have made for difficult for himself in victory, and instead it turned into a strange matchup that Evans made more difficult for himself in defeat. And does the Tito Ortiz victory really mean much? Unless you're either Bjorn Rebney or Alexander Schlemenko, that's not a name of any real significance in the context of MMA at this point.
I just want to know who's getting knocked out first.
Probably Nog. Although it's hard to say. The guy is one of the most durable fighters in the sport and has little in common with his brother when it comes to defense.
The one time he was knocked out, it took a perfectly placed forearm to put him away.
I'm not ready to anoint Anthony Johnson a real contender just yet. He has improved in a lot of ways, and those improvements have been complimented by his weight no longer being an issue. But let's back up a second.
I do think Johnson is a threat in the division. He's still massive, and his high volume standup poses a challenge for any fighter looking to defeat him. I was impressed by his win over Phil Davis. Granted, Davis is more project than prospect, but not just anyone can make him look so ineffective.
Nonetheless, I think Nog deserves more credit for the challenge he poses to Johnson. On the feet, it's hard to say. Johnson will land those well chambered kicks he likes to throw with his lead foot, but Nog is a little tricksy on the feet. You can never understate how in MMA technique doesn't guarantee efficiency. Nog throws this weird, almost slapping right hook from his southpaw stance that he often lands. It's the punch he knocked down Shogun with, so he's able to throw it steam as well.
Still, you'd be hard pressed to figure out a way Nog gets this fight to the ground because that's what he needs to do to win. Like his brother, he's not the kind of guy to grind out wins with top control. This is how Johnson loses, and nothing in his bouts since his loss to Vitor Belfort has led me to believe he's capable of handling someone with an imposing submission game. Like many fighters who make the same mistake twice, their weakness is not their technique: it's their instincts.
Still, Nog is gonna have to walk through the proverbial fire to get the fight to the ground, where his safety and health are not only not guaranteed: they will be predictably compromised. He's 38, and hasn't fought since February of last year. Johnson will either win the easy way...or he'll win the real easy way.
Anthony Johnson via Decision.