The UFC officially announced today that former UFC interim heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira will face undefeated Cain Velasquez at UFC 108 on Saturday, January 2nd. The winner of that bout will determine a future challenger for the UFC heavyweight title.
“Nogueira vs. Velasquez is a great matchup between the present and the future of the heavyweight division,” UFC President Dana White stated. “Nogueira showed in the Couture fight that he still has plenty left to offer at the top level of the game, and Velasquez was devastating in his win over Ben Rothwell, so with both guys in top form, we’re definitely going to see a number one contender emerge from this fight to take on the winner of the Brock Lesnar vs Shane Carwin title fight.”
One of the sport’s legendary heavyweights, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (fighting out of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) always seems to fight his way back into the title picture. With an outstanding 32-5-1, 1 NC record that includes wins in three of his first four UFC fights, the 33-year-old parlayed a unanimous decision victory against Heath Herring into a UFC interim heavyweight title shot where he submitted former UFC champion Tim Sylvia. At UFC 102 in Portland, Nogueira earned an exciting unanimous decision victory over hometown favorite and UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture. But now the only man to hold UFC and PRIDE heavyweight championship belts looks to stop the ascension of the sport’s newest rising star.
“I’m very excited to face an up-and-coming fighter such as Cain Velasquez,” Nogueira said. “I’m looking to get right back in the title picture. It will be interesting coming off that great win against a legend such as Randy Couture to now face a fighter who’s at the beginning of a promising career and who’s looking for that same success.”
Fresh off his dominating TKO victory against respected contender Ben Rothwell at UFC 104 in October, Cain Velasquez (fighting out of San Jose, Calif.) remains perfect in the UFC and has inched that much closer to a UFC heavyweight title shot. With only one fight going the distance, a unanimous decision victory over Cheick Kongo at UFC 99, the former two-time NCAA All-American wrestler from Arizona State has finished each of his other UFC opponents within two rounds. And as the owner of a professional MMA record of 7-0, it’s clear that there are very few heavyweights that can match Velasquez’s quickness or stop his takedowns.
“I am excited to fight a legend like Nogueira. He’s one of the fighters I watched growing up and admired – he’s definitely one of the greats, and a win over him is what I need to set me up for my shot at the title,” said Velasquez. “I have a lot respect for Noguiera and look forward to facing him in the Octagon.”
The organization also announced that former UFC light heavyweight champion ‘Suga’ Rashad Evans will attempt to avenge his teammate Keith Jardine’s loss against Brazilian knockout artist Thiago Silva at the event.
Ready to get his UFC light heavyweight title back, Rashad Evans (fighting out of Albuquerque, N.M.) has notched wins over some big names in the division, including consecutive knockout victories over Chuck Liddell and then champion Forrest Griffin. The Niagara Falls, New York native and former Michigan State University wrestler has won 18 of his 20 pro fights, including a draw against former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz. A skilled grappler that has tremendous knockout power, Evans will need all of his well-rounded abilities when he takes on Thiago Silva, the man who knocked out his teammate and training partner Keith Jardine.
“Thiago’s a hard puncher and a very good fighter, and I respect him,” said Evans. “But I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t want to get a little payback for Keith on January 2nd. This is gonna be a great fight for the fans, but I think I’ve got too many tools for Silva to deal with.”
A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt that can get the knockout as easy as the tap out, Thiago Silva (fighting out of Sao Paulo, Brazil) has won 14 of his first 15 pro fights. His 95 second KO victory over Jardine at UFC 102 was his fifth win in the UFC, with four coming via KO/TKO and one by submission. The 26-year-old has put away his opponents within two rounds in all of his UFC wins and he looks to throw his name in the UFC title contention hat with a win over former world titleholder Rashad Evans.
“Rashad Evans is a former UFC champion and one of the best light heavyweights in the world,” said Silva. “But he’s never faced a fighter like me, and once I hit him, I have no doubt that a victory is going to follow for me soon after.”
UFC 108: Nogueira vs. Velasquez takes place from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday, January 2, 2010.