UFC Fight Night 39: Minotauro Nogueira vs. Roy Nelson Review
It’s been a long while since the “Pride is dead”/”Pride never die” argument meant…well, anything. It’s been just over seven years since Pride’s last show (spoiler alert: you’re old), and anyone of value from that era has been assimilated into the UFC.
Yesterday reminded us, however, that there will be a time in the not-so-distant future that the UFC roster will not include anyone who fought in the Pride ring. Mirko Cro Cop and Mark Coleman and Quinton Jackson all came and went. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira just got knocked out by Roy Nelson and has, at most, one more fight left. Tatsuya Kawajiri is 35 in a young man’s division of a young man’s sport. Dan Henderson is 43. Wanderlei Silva is 37. Takanori Gomi is 35. Alistair Overeem is 33. These guys aren’t long for the UFC. Gegard Mousasi, at 28, seems the most likely candidate to be the last man to represent the kakutougi-boom era, though he may not have as long as one would think 11 years and 40 fights into his career.
Big Nog, Lil Nog, Sad Nog
Despite being born just eighteen days apart, “Minotauro” Nogueira looked damn near a decade older than Roy Nelson in the cage yesterday. His performance affirmed the age discrepancy as well: It was evident Nogueira was the more technically sound fighter, though one in a body that couldn’t keep up. Which is to say the Nogueira of 2003 embarrasses a guy like Roy Nelson.
But we had the 2014 model Nogueira, and it wasn’t pretty. Slow and plodding, it seemed more a matter of time that Nelson would catch Nogueira and put him on the mat, especially with the fight scheduled for five rounds. It didn’t take long. An uppercut wobbled Nogueira and the followup right hand convinced him to go to his back. He would pop back to his feet quickly, looking foggy.
Even five years ago, Nogueira could have weathered the storm, recovered, and come back to win the fight. But that was then. For today’s Nogueira, the end was was now inevitable.
A little over two minutes later, Nelson throws a looping right hand, and Nogueira’s too stubborn to go down clean. He sort of topples over awkwardly. Nelson jumps in to finish, but overshoots it somehow, allowing Nogueira to his feet. Nogueira’s doing the Mortal Kombat Finish Him dance, but because he’s standing up he’s “intelligently defending” himself, and referee Leon Roberts allows it to continue.
This continues for another 25 seconds or so. Nelson backs Nogueira up toward the fence. The latter lowers his left hand, allowing Nelson to come over the top with a right and plant one right on the chin. Nogueira falls straight back and down to the mat, his legs stiffening. Nelson gets himself on top of the age to celebrate.
It’s a sad scene for a variety of reasons, but none more important than the fact that that last sequence did not need to happen. When Nog’s hurt the second time, when he stands and has to use the fence to keep himself erect, you can just go ahead and step in, Mr. Referee. You can throw the towel in there, Mr. Corner. Instead, a likely twice-concussed 37-year-old man took a third violent concussive blow because this is MMA.
No Nog No
According to Nogueira’s manager, he wants one more fight. From MMA Fighting:
“Maybe a last fight against Frank Mir to square off and retire,” Guimaraes responded moments after the loss when asked if Nogueira will walk away from the sport.
“He mentioned that way before his fight against Roy Nelson was scheduled. He just can’t live without avenging these loses.”
Nogueira should not fight again. There are those who take some ambiguous view here, insisting on some hyper-libertarian view that the fighter should be solely responsible for his career, so long as an athletic commission is willing to put pen to paper and hand out a license. Anyone who has watched Nogueira’s career – especially anyone who’s watched his recent career – should neither encourage nor endorse Nogueira stepping foot into a cage or ring with the intention of fighting another human being. Someone around Nogueira should step in: his family, his teammates, his friends. That his manager is publicly talking about one last fight shows how inept he is to his own client’s personal safety.
And if Nogueira’s team isn’t going to keep him out of the cage, the UFC should step up and hit the ol’ Liddell forced retirement button. There’s a temptation here that if Nogueira’s serious about just wanting one more fight that it can’t be too bad for him, so hey here you go, you’re a legend, we’ll give you one last shot. But even though Frank Mir is Frank Mir, even though Nogueira probably should have won that second bout, Frank Mir is still a dangerous dude who beat the hell out of Minotauro in first fight, and broke the hell out of his arm in the rematch.
We’re at the point with Nogueira where “one more fight” is a big deal. I won’t sit here and tell you that he’s going to die in the cage or that THIS is the fight that’s going to cause irreparable damage (that’s likely already happened through accumulation). But what purpose does it serve at this point? It’s not a fight likely to draw a bunch of money and neither guy is really on the title track anymore. It’s time for Dana White to make the same tough decision he made for his BFF four years ago.
Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter.