Rodrigo "Minotauro" Noguueira and Randy Couture will finally get the chance to fight on August 29 2009. Its sad that this fight is happening now and not a couple of years ago when Minotauro first arrived on the UFC scene. It will likely still be a great fight, but for the fighters themselves it might have had more meaning when they were still arguably on top of not only thier games but the sport itself.
At the time Minotauro arrived in the UFC, Randy was still arguably the best heavyweight in the US, and Minotauro was still listed as number two (listed directly below one, Fedor Emelianenko) by most of the magazines and serious observers of the sport. Minotauro's arrival in the UFC meant a serious challenge for Randy. I am still somewhat shocked that they didn't put that fight together immediately. They matched up beautifully. Both about equal standing, and while different, similarly well matched on the ground. Couture has proven notouriously hard to submit (in a recent submission match not even the phenomenal Jacare could submit Couture), and Nog, as he is called by fans of the sport, has proven hard to put down for the count. With Nog though, Randy will have to be much more cautious on the ground (something he has said in pre-fight interviews) because Nog is known for finishing submissions. So wrestler base vs bjj guard and half guard? It will make for an interesting chess match. But it might have been something truly special for both fighters and fans a few years ago.
Though, maybe not. Randy was having a none to quiet battle with UFC management, and Nog was, according to insider rumor battling some recurrent injuries that left somewhat less than one hundred percent. Both men are currently hungry to avenge losses, and substandard performances. Each has had sometime quality down time to recover. Hopefully this is the case.
If both Randy and Nog come to the fight in their best form, then this one is too close to call. Each has a decent upright MMA game, and whose is better really will depend on training. When Nog was training his boxing extensively with the Cuban national team the man was technically sound and accurate, with decent power. Lately though his boxing has been pretty lack luster. Couture isn't as good an upright fighter as he is a smart upright fighter. The man researches, finds the weakness and then trains strategies to exploit it. So while not a versatile or imaginitive striker, the man knows what he needs to do from opponent to opponent and has the discipline to go into the octagon and execute. He has a nice overhand too. Close but based on current performances I have to give a slight edge to Randy.
Clinch? Randy has betrayed a bit of confidence in this area and that may be his undoing. Nog is a Brazilian Top Team alum and under the auspices of the great Darrel Gholar, BTT has managed to take down with ease, both Dan Henderson, and Matt Lindland, late of Team Quest and former training partners of Couture. What is key here is this. You are not going to find better wrestlers than those guys and the crew at BTT has managed to take down some very very good wrestlers. If Randy doesn't want to end up on his back (his worst position) he had better be cautious. Both men do good work from the clinch but beyond dirty boxing what are Randy's options from the clinch? Can he really risk taking Nog down? No he really can't. Nog is the best heavy weight grappler out there. Playing in his guard or half guard will see Randy either submitted or turned over. So the clinch work for Couture doesn't really lead anywhere. But maybe he will pick up points for generalship, and his dirty boxing. The longer he stays there, the more chances he gives Nog to take him down.
On the ground Nog is holding all the cards. From the bottom or the top. Randy has a nice wrestlers base, and a decent ground and pound. His groundd and pound though will be offset by some relentless pressure from Nog whose stellar guard and half guard work will mean sweeps and submission attempts gallore. Though scoring will go to Randy because the UFC doesn't seem to have a decent way to score pressure from the guy on the bottom. If Nog gets on top Couture will want to BJJ his way back over and not rely on the wrestling manuevers that will leave him open to Minotauro magic.
If both men come in shape this is a tough fight to call. If both men come in shape it won't really matter except to the folks betting, because we will get a spectacular fight.
But because, Nog and I share a coach, and much of the same half guard, and guard vocabulary I gotta go with Nog.