MMR: Nogueira’s 10 Best Nights

Nogueira's 10 Best Nights

By Mike Sloan Feb 4, 2008
Considering Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Pictures)'s career full of brutal wars, many felt the Brazilian heavyweight might not have a lot left when he stepped into the Octagon Saturday night.

Just a few moments into his battle with Tim Sylvia (Pictures) it seemed as though those concerns had been confirmed. Detonating a massive right hand onto the Brazilian heavyweight's chin, it appeared as though Sylvia would win a UFC belt for the third time while Nogueira would have his legacy called into question.

But not so fast, folks.

This was certainly not Nogueira's first rodeo, and he eventually cleared his head to the point where he could outbox Sylvia, score a takedown and force a tapout with a picture-perfect guillotine. It was a sensational win, one of the greatest of Nogueira's career. Which brings me to the meat of this week's Monday Morning Reverie. …

The 10 Most Memorable Nights of Minotauro's Career:

10) March 16, 2003: Pride 25, vs. Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures)
On a list of positive memories it seems strange to start with a loss. Nogueira was one step behind the Russian from the start, but he continuously tried submission after submission. Fighting on troubled waters for 20 minutes provided yet another affirmation of Nogueira's toughness. In the first half of the bout, Emelianenko landed a huge right hand to the grounded Nogueira that would have finished just about anyone else. But the Brazilian heavyweight hung tough long enough to make a fight out of it. This was the fight that catapulted Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures) into the stratosphere of MMA, as he was simply too much for Nogueira to handle.

9) Dec. 23, 2002: Pride 24, vs. Dan Henderson (Pictures)
It was the second rematch of Nogueira's career, and it was his first chance to avenge a loss. Dan Henderson (Pictures) had already scored a controversial split decision win over him when they met in the finals of the RINGS King of Kings 1999 tournament. Henderson was at a disadvantage size-wise, but he had always been one of the most reliable and dominant fighters in the sport. The rematch unfolded relatively similar to their first encounter, but as the minutes eroded Nogueira seized control. At the 1:49 mark of the third round, Henderson tapped out due to a textbook armbar, the first time in his entire career that he had ever been submitted. It was Nogueira's 13th consecutive win, and at the time he looked unbeatable.

8) July 7, 2007: UFC 73, vs. Heath Herring (Pictures)
Pride was effectively dead and Nogueira had just signed with the UFC. In his Octagon debut, Nogueira was matched in a showcase against Herring, whom he'd already defeated twice. Most figured that "The Texas Crazy Horse" had little left, but he stunned everyone by flooring Nogueira with a head kick early in the opening round. "Minotauro" was a dead man on his back, but Herring inexplicably allowed Nogueira to recover. By the end of the first round, Nogueira was almost on steady legs. He went on to win an easy unanimous decision in a fight he was literally knocked out in and clearly should have lost.

7) Aug. 15, 2004: Pride Final Conflict 2004, vs. Sergei Kharitonov (Pictures)
Nogueira had already lost his Pride heavyweight title to Fedor, but he was riding high on a four-fight win streak. Enter Kharitonov, an unbeaten judo specialist with concussive striking power. There were whispers that Kharitonov would be the man to eventually dethrone King Fedor, and some speculated that he'd use Nogueira as a springboard toward the world title. Those people couldn't have been more wrong, as Nogueira sent Kharitonov to the MMA clinic and dominated the Russian en route to a wide unanimous decision. The coveted rematch with Fedor was his next fight, and it was within reason that he'd snatch the title back.

6) Feb. 24, 2001: RINGS King of Kings Finals 2000
With a fighter like Minotauro, whose career spans close to 10 years, it stands to reason that he would have participated in a tournament or two. In this case, it was one of the most impressive tournaments in MMA history. Staged over two cards in a five-month span, the RINGS-formatted event, which prohibited striking to head while fighters went at it on the ground, called for five victories, including three in one night, to win the competitive tournament. Other fighters competing for the title included Randy Couture (Pictures), Tsuyoshi Kohsaka (Pictures), and Valentijn Overeem (Pictures), who fell to Nogueira by arm-triangle choke in the finals after submitting Couture in the semis. The tournament triumph propelled Nogueira into Pride.
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