Minotauro “Big Nog” Nogueira (34-7-1, 3 KO’s, 21 Subs)
Between injuries and staph infections, Big Nog has had a rough time of it over the last few years in terms of keeping busy. Since defeating Tim Sylvia at UFC 81 in February of ’08 to claim the Interim UFC Heavyweight championship and in the process securing Fight of the Night honors, Nogueira has alternated wins and losses. If you believe the pattern is to continue, then the prospect of Big Nog getting his hand raised on June 8th looks bleak. But streaks are meant to be broken, and Minotauro will look to replicate the same stealthy armbar he hooked on Dave Herman in his last match at UFC 153.
Unfortunately the man who will be locking horns with him in this match is several pay grades above the overmatched Herman. Nogueira pretty much had his way both standing up and on the mat against Herman but Werdum poses a far different and more significant challenge.
Against Herman, Big Nog stalked the cage, hands low with obviously very little concern for the punching power of his opponent and threw haymakers in a brutish, flat-footed display that harkened back to a tough guy competition. Of course, the skill set that Nogueira employs on the mat is elite but his brand of boxing is like a shot of bourbon; nothing fancy, just good old fashioned gasoline to get the job done.
The UFC odds makers at Pinnacle currently list Big Nog at +245, but he can be found as low as +220 if you shop around.
Fabricio Werdum (16-5-1, 5 KO's, 8 Subs)
Werdum has won five of his last six matches, with a loss (by decision) to Alistair Overeem sandwiched in-between, and has been outside the Octagon for almost a year since defeating Mike Russow by TKO in the 1st round at UFC 147. Werdum is equipped with a far more varied and explosive stand-up game than Nogueira and absolutely demolished Roy Nelson, a big banger himself with a highly pedigreed ground game like Big Nog, en route to a unanimous decision that left Nelson battered and bloodied.
If you travel back to July 1, 2006 when Werdum met Nogueira in the Octagon for their first and only fight, Nogueira took the match early but Werdum began to find strategic openings in the final round. Werdum will have to be more aggressive early if he wants to reverse his fortunes from his previous meeting when he dropped a unanimous decision. He will also have to make use of his more explosive striking attack. Werdum has demonstrated since that initial meeting with Big Nog that he has the chops to turn the lights out when an opportunity arises, and a victory by KO could be a smart addition to your UFC picks.
Though Nogueira won his last match in fairly dominant fashion, he was almost a bit placid in doing so. Perhaps it was the level of his competition but I was surprised to see a relative journeyman like Herman take Nogueira to the canvas with a simple leg wheel. Perhaps Nogueira went willing as a fight on the ground is where he lives and breathes but I think it may also have had something to do with a lack of conditioning.
I like Werdum in this one. I think his cardio will be better and I believe his striking has improved significantly since that night in July of 2008 when last they met. I believe Nogueira, who will be 37 when he squares off against Werdum, is a fighter who is still supremely talented but a click below where he was at his pinnacle while Werdum seems to be getting better in all aspects of his game.Free UFC Picks: Play Werdum -295 at Bet365.com