Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira will fight for the first time since December. | Photo: Sherdog.com
Ten months have passed since the right arm of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira went snap, crackle and pop under the torque of a Frank Mir kimura at UFC 140.
The 36-year-old Brazilian icon will make his first appearance since his submission defeat to Mir when he meets Bellator Fighting Championships, Sengoku and EliteXC veteran Dave Herman in the UFC 153 “Silva vs. Bonnar” co-main event on Saturday at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Nogueira has declared himself -- and his arm -- fit for battle.
“I’m feeling good. My arm feels strong. I’m ready to go,” he said during a pre-fight media call. “I was hungry to fight. I asked to fight in Brazil, and I got an opportunity to fight in Brazil. I’m recovered. I’ve had great training sessions. In training, I’m always being tested, so I believe if I’m training well, I’ll fight well.”
Nogueira was originally booked to return at UFC 149 in July. However, he was forced to withdraw from a scheduled matchup with French kickboxer Cheick Kongo after he reinjured his surgically repaired arm in training.
“I was disappointed that I couldn’t take the fight in July,” Nogueira said. “I had two months of training for this fight. I ate a high kick in training and blocked a kick with the formerly broken arm. I wasn’t feeling good, so I had to pull out. Now, I’m going to fight in Brazil, which is a big honor for me. I’m very excited.”
With more than half (20) of his professional victories by submission, Nogueira knows where his bread is buttered, and he clearly views Herman -- who has publicly referred to Brazilian jiu-jitsu as “useless” -- as vulnerable on the ground.
“My BJJ works very well,” he said. “For this fight especially, I trained a lot of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. If it goes to the ground, I will go for it. He talks smack about BJJ, but he’s not fought someone with submissions like me before.”
Teixeira Follows Liddell’s Lead
The 32-year-old Brazilian wrecking ball will enter his light heavyweight showcase with Fabio Maldonado having won 16 consecutive fights, 15 of them via knockout, technical knockout or submission. He took notes from one of his mentors, a certain mohawked UFC hall of famer.
“I’ve wanted to be in the UFC for so long, and now that I’m here, it’s living a dream,” Teixeira said. “I learned from Chuck Liddell that it’s important to be an exciting fighter, to go for the finish, and that it’s important for you to go out and excite the crowd.”
Teixeira dazzled in his promotional debut at UFC 146 in May, as he bashed Kyle Kingsbury with brutal striking volleys before submitting the American Kickboxing Academy export with a first-round arm-triangle choke. He was originally slated to meet Quinton Jackson in the UFC 153 co-main event, but “Rampage” withdrew with an injury and opened the door for Maldonado to move in.
“I will fight anyone in the UFC,” Teixeira said. “I waited so long to get here. I will fight anyone.”
Maldonado has suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time as a mixed martial artist, having dropped decisions to Kingsbury and Igor Pokrajac. The 32-year-old Team Nogueira representative has compiled a 22-0 record, with 21 knockouts, as a professional boxer and has become revered for his ability and willingness to attack the body in the cage. Teixeira does not expect him to back down.
“Maldonado is a good fighter and will bring the fight two me,” he said, “but I will knock him out, ‘Knockout of the Night,’ maybe.”
Maldonado, who has never been knocked out, shrugged at the thought.
“He said he will knock me out? He’s never encountered a strong chin like mine,” Maldonado said. “I know for a fact my boxing is better than Glover’s. I know he’s never seen anyone with my boxing skills. I know he’s a great fighter with hype and a lot of people don’t want to face him, but I do. I have one advantage: I know how to hurt people. My strategy is to exchange punches and see who’s the toughest. I will defeat him.”
This & That
Middleweight champion Anderson Silva has won more fights (16) during his current winning streak than opponent Stephan Bonnar has won in his entire career (15) ... American Top Team’s Gleison Tibau owns 25 professional victories, making him the third-winningest fighter on the UFC 153 roster. He trails only Nogueira (33) and Silva (32) ... Jon Fitch holds a 13-1-1 mark in bouts that reach the judges. He meets surging Brazilian Erick Silva, who has not gone the distance in more than three years ... Sam Sicilia sports eight first-round finishes among his 11 career victories. He has put away three opponents in less than half a minute. Sicilia faces “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil” winner Rony Mariano Bezerra, who has won his past six fights.