Saturday at UFC 102, Randy “the Natural” Couture (16-9) will battle another legend in the sport of MMA in Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (31-5-1). Both fighters have a long history of fighting the best and toughest opponents in the world which is why they are both so highly regarded. Couture has captured the UFC title in both the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions by relying on a combination of Greco-Roman wrestling, dirty boxing and developing solid gameplans. Nogueira has earned his place among the elite heavyweights with his toughness, determination and world-class submission game.
In a matchup pitting a wrestler against a jiu jitsu fighter, it’s common for the fight to take place standing. In an interview with UFC.com, Couture commented, “I think it’s probably to my benefit to keep the fight standing. I think he doesn’t have the transition skills and wrestling realm to put me on the ground but we could easily end up on the ground in any kind of scramble or fracas.” In Couture’s last two victories, he controlled his opponents (Tim Sylvia and Gabe Gonzaga) in the clinch which ultimately led to his wins.
Nogueira’s last win in the Octagon was earned with a guillotine choke against Tim Sylvia at UFC 82 back in February of 2008. In fact 20 of Nogueira’s 31 wins have come by way of submission. Even so, Couture insists that he isn’t afraid to take the fight to the mat if that’s where it ends up. “I’m absolutely preparing using the years of time I’ve put in on the mat to adapt my wrestling to fit fight situations,” Couture stated. “We’re gonna be perfectly fine on the ground wherever this fight goes.”
In Couture’s last fight with current UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, “the Natural” was stopped in the second round after getting caught with a vicious blow from Lesnar followed up by a series of hammerfist punches. Nogueira was also defeated in his last outing against Frank Mir at UFC 92 back in December although it’s been reported that he was struggling with a staph infection at the time. With both fighters coming off losses, the pressure will be on for both men to perform well. “People should expect a very tactical, very explosive fight. Three rounds of putting it all on the line. Nogueira is not one to sit around and wait and see what happens. And I’ve never thought that way either. So I think it’s going to be a very, very exciting fight.”