At UFC 102, mixed martial arts fans saw a legend return to top form.
Antonio Rodrigo (Minotauro) Nogueira silenced critics, who claimed his days as a top heavyweight were numbered, with an exciting unanimous-decision victory over Randy (The Natural) Couture.
The two went toe-to-toe in one of the best UFC scraps of the year, but it was clear Nogueira (32-5-1) was just too much for the UFC Hall of Famer to handle.
Both men traded stiff shots in the boxing exchanges, but it was the former PRIDE champion landing the more significant punches, dropping Couture (16-10) twice. Couture showed great resilience as he survived being put away by Nogueira’s ground-and-pound attack. The former UFC heavyweight titleholder also displayed impressive submission defense, escaping both D’Arce and arm-triangle choke attempts.
The bout won “fight of the night” honours and earned both men a $60,000 bonus.
After winning the judges’ nod (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) with an impressive performance, it’s clear Nogueira still has a lot of fight left in him.
Following his TKO loss to Frank Mir at UFC 92, many wrote off the 33-year-old Brazilian. Prior to his fight with Couture, he was consistently asked when he would be retiring.
"I'm still young, I'm still healthy," Nogueira said on UFC 102 media conference call. "I still feel my body wants to fight, I'm very competitive, I love this sport.
"I've had three fights in the UFC and I haven't shown my best performance yet. I think I'm getting there and getting back into good shape. I still have a lot to show. That's why I've been training so hard."
It seems some may have made too big a deal of the Mir fight.
Going into UFC 92, Nogueira was hindered by both a staph infection and meniscus tear. Last night, he appeared leaner, younger, stronger and quicker -- better resembling the fighter who competed at the top of the PRIDE heavyweight division.
To Couture’s credit, he still doesn’t look his age in the octagon. The 46 year old put up a hell of a fight, but was simply outmatched.
With a victory over yet another MMA legend, Nogueira could be in line to face the winner of the UFC 106 heavyweight title fight between Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin.
NATE THE GREAT
In a highly anticipated middleweight bout, Nate (The Great) Marquardt made quick work of Demian Maia, scoring a devastating knockout in only 21 seconds.
As Maia (10-1) moved forward with a body-kick attempt, Marquardt (29-8-2) connected with a huge straight-right, sending the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt flying. The spectacular punch, which was like something out of a movie, earned him a $60,000 “knockout of the night” bonus.
Following the victory, Marquardt lobbied for a rematch with middleweight champion Anderson Silva. The two met at UFC 73, with Silva earning a first-round TKO victory.
UFC president Dana White recently announced that Dan Henderson is next in line for a title shot. However, following UFC 102 Silva’s camp has now said they would like to see Henderson face Marquardt to determine a number one contender.
SILVA PUTS MACHIDA LOSS BEHIND HIM
In the co-main event of the evening, Thiago Silva stopped (The Dean of Mean) Keith Jardine with punches in just over 90 seconds.
Jardine (14-6-1), who has been criticized for having a suspect jaw, was game in the early going, but got caught by a stiff left-hook.
In his last appearance at UFC 94, Silva (14-1) saw his undefeated streak come to and end at the hands of Lyoto Machida. The dangerous Brazilian striker no doubt had some mental work to do following the loss.
His impressive performance against Jardine shows that Silva has put the Machida fight behind him, as he appeared in top form last night.
DUFFEE DELIVERS RECORD KO
In his octagon debut, Todd Duffee knocked out Edmonton native Tim Hague in seven seconds, setting a new record for fastest UFC knockout.
Had it not been for Marquardt’s destruction of Maia, Duffee would have earned “knockout of the night.”
Don (The Predator) Frye and (The Sandman) James Irvin both held the previous record of eight seconds. Frye first earned the honour by stopping Thomas Ramirez at UFC 8. Irvin then tied him last year, finishing off Houston Alexander at Fight Night 13.
FULL UFC 102 RESULTS
- Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira def. Randy Couture by unanimous decision
- Thiago Silva def. Keith Jardine by first round TKO
- Jake Rosholt def. Chris Leben by third round submission (arm-triangle choke)
- Nate Marquardt def. Demian Maia by first round KO
- Brandon Vera def. Krzysztof Soszynski by unanimous decision
- Aaron Simpson def. Ed Herman by second round TKO (knee injury)
- Gabriel Gonzaga def. Chris Tuchscherer by first round TKO
- Michael Russow def. Justin McCully by unanimous decision
- Todd Duffee def. Tim Hague by first round KO
- Mark Munoz def. Nick Catone by split decision
- Evan Dunham def. Marcus Aurelio by split decision