TORONTO - Second chances only come around every so often in mixed martial arts.
Antonio Rodrigo (Minotauro) Nogueira knows he has a golden opportunity to avenge the first stoppage loss of his career when he rematches Frank Mir in the co-main event of UFC 140 Saturday.
“It means I’ve got a second chance to fight against Frank,” Nogueira said. “I didn’t have a good fight on that day. There are no excuses; he won the fight. He was faster — that’s why he won the fight. He threw more techniques and punches. I didn’t pick a good strategy.
“Now I’ve got a second chance to face him. I want to show a different fight. I will try to do my best and show a different fight than I did that day.”
The two first met at UFC 92 two years ago. Prior to the bout, Nogueira had spent a week in hospital due to a severe staph infection in his arm. When it came time to fight, he looked like a zombie, standing straight in front of Mir with no footwork or head movement.
Mir promptly began picking him apart with straights, hooks, uppercuts and knees, dropping the former PRIDE heavyweight champion three time in the first round alone. The second frame saw more of the same before the referee called the fight, awarding a TKO victory to Mir.
However, news of Nogueira’s ailment soon surfaced, detracting from what should have been a career-defining moment for Mir.
Mir knows he was the better man that night and gives little thought to the critics who labelled him lucky.
“On my part, I’m just trying to be as consistent as possible,” Mir said. “I think your performances speak for themselves. That’s all we have under our control. So I just go out there, beat opponents and let the rest take care of itself.”
Despite downplaying the detractors, Mir knows he has the chance to shut them up. Though he beat him two years ago, the last thing Mir can afford to do is take Nogueira lightly.
“One thing that has helped me focus for this fight is I know a lot of people sometimes fall into the pitfalls of once they beat someone, they underestimate them,” Mir said. “I think Nogueira, the first time around, underestimated me. He felt my striking wasn’t going to be where it was at. He laid out that game plan according to what he knew at the time.
“Obviously I’d improved drastically in that area for the fight and it showed. I trained a lot for catching someone off-guard and that’s the name of our sport. So that’s why I try never to prepare specifically for a person because you don’t know what might happen during a fight. You have to prepare for the hardest fight possible.”
Mir knows he’s in for a tougher fight this time around. After all, Nogueira’s coming hot off a spectacular knockout victory over Brendan Schaub and confidence can be a dangerous thing.
“I realize that Nogueira is a little bit more inspired this time around than he was last time,” Mir said. “I know what it feels like to have a loss to somebody. It’s a new type of motivation for training that’s not there normally.”
Obviously when getting ready for a southpaw like Mir, it helps to spar with left-handed fighters. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if your main training partner just so happens to be your twin brother. And it’s even better if your sibling is also fighting on the same card.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira meets former UFC light-heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz right before Rodrigo faces Mir. The last time the Nogueira brother competed on the same show was over five years ago at PRIDE Critical Countdown Absolute — and they were both victorious, with Rogerio earning a TKO victory over Alistair Overeem and Rodrigo winning a unanimous decision against Fabricio Werdum.
Rodrigo said he and Rogerio helped each other a lot for their respective opponents.
“I love to fight (on the same card as) Rogerio because we can train together,” Rodrigo said. “Frank is left-handed and so is Rogerio. So I used my brother a lot for sparring and he used me because I’m right-handed. So it was good for both of us.
“It’s good energy to have a fight the same day as my brother. We’ll be in the same locker room. We did that a couple times in Japan. I miss that.”
If the weigh-ins are any indication, fans are firmly behind Lyoto Machida in the main event. The partisan crowd booed light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones as he hit the scale. Either they just really like Machida, or they interpret Jones’ abundance of confidence as arrogance.
Tito Ortiz received the loudest reaction from the Toronto fans. Maybe it’s because he’s one of the sport’s true legends, or maybe it’s just because he wore a Maple Leafs jersey.
The second loudest reaction? Probably a three-way tie between Machida, Antonio Rodrigo (Minotauro) Nogueira and Mark Hominick.
Dennis Hallman missed weight, tipping the scale at 158.5 pounds. He must now forfeit 20% of his ‘show’ money to opponent John Makdessi. This marks Hallman’s first lightweight appearance in the UFC since losing via unanimous decision to Jens Pulver at UFC 33 in 2001.
Prior to the weigh-ins, lightweight champion Frankie Edgar scored a stunning first-round knockout victory over Benson Henderson ... in the upcoming UFC Undisputed 3 video game.