I was getting worried there. I was starting to wonder if the idea of a person named “Antonio Rogerio Nogueira” was just something I made up in my head. I could have sworn this person was a mainstay in PRIDE FC and a title contender for a while, but time kept passing by without an appearance by him…
OK, I’ll stop being silly. After fighting just once in two and a half years due to an assortment of injuries, Nogueira has returned and he’s set to take on Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. It might seem like Nogueira is irrelevant due to all the time off, but remember that his last fight was a decision victory against Rashad Evans. There’s a reason that he’s taking on an opponent as dangerous as Johnson.
Much like the Evans fight, Nogueira is largely being counted out heading into this battle. Against Evans, I thought Nogueira had a decent chance of winning, as I believed he could out-point Evans standing and possibly defend Evans’ takedowns as well. I didn’t predict it would happen but acknowledged it as a possibility… and that possibility hit.
Against Johnson… ugh. I don’t like this fight for Nogueira at all. Johnson is a much better overall striker than Evans, a fighter with excellent hand and foot speed, tremendous knockout power, and a good understanding of how to set up his techniques. Johnson is so good standing – and so mediocre on the ground – that almost everybody who fights him resorts to shooting for takedown attempts.
For what it’s worth, Rogerio is a better overall striker than his twin brother. He’s much better at limiting his opponent’s damage and winning a boxing match at range. That’s unlikely to matter much in this fight. Johnson is going to be the much more punishing striker with far superior hand speed. I highly doubt that Nogueira will be able to settle into a boxing match here for too long before being knocked out or at least hurt by strikes.
The path to victory for Nogueira here is simply to find a way to drag Johnson to the ground. Three of Johnson’s four career losses are by submission, with the other coming by getting poked in the eye. Johnson has been caught in nine total submission attempts despite only being taken down three times in UFC fights. Nogueira is known as a technician on the ground and a fighter with an excellent guard game. He’s a serious threat to submit Johnson if the fight goes to the ground.
The problem is that I have very little faith in Nogueira’s ability to get Johnson down. Offensive wrestling is easily the weakest part of Nogueira’s game – he’s landed just 0.79 takedowns per 15 minutes at 44 percent accuracy. In high-level fights, Nogueira has resorted to settling for a boxing match. In Nogueira’s mind, he is fully capable of beating opponents standing up, and if they want to take him to the ground, that works too.
That mentality isn’t going to get the job done against Johnson. His strikes are too punishing to risk slugging it out for three rounds, and he’s too hard to take down for Nogueira to succeed that way. Unless Johnson’s conditioning fails him – and why would it? – I have a very difficult time seeing how Nogueira wins this fight.
Pick: Anthony Johnson by KO