Antonio Rogerio Nogueira has not fought in more than a year. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira’s stock was at an all-time high in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and then he disappeared.
Various injuries have kept the Brazilian bottled up on the sidelines since he picked up a unanimous decision over former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans at UFC 156 in February 2013. The Pride Fighting Championships veteran will end a lengthy period of inactivity when he takes on Anthony Johnson in the UFC on Fox 12 co-main event this Saturday at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. Nogueira, 38, will carry with him a two-fight winning streak and the kind of urgency one might expect from a combat sports athlete of his advanced age.
“A year and a half is a long time to be out of the Octagon,” he said during the UFC’s “Road to the Octagon” program. “You really end up losing your pace in fighting. By accepting this fight, I have extra motivation to get back into top shape. The reason for my return is to test myself. When I started training again, I was fighting just as well as the other high-level fighters. I realized how much I can still achieve in the UFC. I now have the drive and ambition to become the best in this division, and I will be.”
A polished boxer with a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, “Minotoro” is 9-2 over his past 11 appearances, losing only to “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 8 winner Ryan Bader and Alliance MMA’s Phil Davis. Johnson, who once competed as a super-sized welterweight, poses some real problems with his unique blend of speed and power.
“In the UFC, you don’t choose your opponent,” Nogueira said. “I expect to have a fight that shows I’m just as good as before. I was once considered one of the top five fighters in my division. This is a way to test myself and get to where I want to be. I want to end the year as one of the top three fighters in my division. After this fight, I will be one step closer to my goal.”
Johnson has revived his career since being released by the UFC in 2012 after repeatedly failing to meet contracted weights. The 30-year-old Blackzilians representative has strung together eight straight wins, including a one-sided unanimous decision over Davis in his return to the Octagon at UFC 172 in April. Johnson has delivered 11 of his 17 career victories by knockout or technical knockout.
“A lot of people have said that Johnson is the favorite in this fight because of his recent success and many wins throughout his career,” Nogueira said. “I know he’s on a career high, but I believe in the work I have been doing. My experience will really help me in this fight. I’m extremely confident in my skills and will definitely give my best. Worrying about the outcome of the fight is pointless because I know I am going to win.”
A sustained run of success has pushed Dennis Bermudez to the brink of contention in the UFC’s featherweight division.
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14 finalist will put his six-fight winning streak on the line when he matches wits and wills with Clay Guida in a pivotal clash at 145 pounds. The 27-year-old Bermudez last appeared at UFC 171 in March, when he put away Jim Hettes with third-round punches and a follow-up knee strike at the American Airlines Arena in Dallas.
Guida remains one of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s most recognizable stars and owns wins over some of the sport’s most prominent names, including reigning UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and former Pride lightweight titleholder Takanori Gomi. Bermudez views “The Carpenter” as a potential springboard.
“It’s going to definitely be the battle of wills, but I’m a firecracker, boy. I’m going to find a way to win,” he said. “If I dominate Clay, which I plan to do, I’m going to scream for a title shot.”
THIS & THAT
The SAP Center opened on Sept. 7, 1993 at a cost of $162.5 million ... Matt Brown was eliminated in “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 7 quarterfinals, submitting to a second-round triangle choke from Amir Sadollah ... Former EliteXC champion Robbie Lawler has finished 12 different opponents inside one round: Josh Koscheck, Adlan Amagov, Matt Lindland, Melvin Manhoef, Joey Villasenor, Falaniko Vitale, Jeremy Brown, Tiki Ghosn, Saburo Kawakatsu, Marco Macera, Landon Showalter and John Reed ... American Kickboxing Academy mainstay Josh Thomson is one of three men to have held the Strikeforce lightweight crown. Guida and Gilbert Melendez are the others ... The four fighters to whom Daron Cruickshank has lost -- Adriano Martins, John Makdessi, Luis Palomino and Bobby Green -- own a cumulative 82-24 record ... When Kyle Kingsbury steps into the Octagon, a total of 1,148 days will have elapsed since his most recent victory ... Former two-division King of the Cage champion Tim Means hails from Wilburton, Okla., a small town of less than 3,000 people in the southeastern section of the Sooner State ... When undefeated Black House prospect Brian Ortega was born on Feb. 21, 1991, the top five movies at the domestic box office were “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Sleeping with the Enemy,” “King Ralph,” “Home Alone” and “Dances with Wolves” ... Mexico’s Akbarh Arreola has 16 submissions on his resume, half of them via triangle choke ... A four-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, Gilbert Burns holds the rank of black belt under Ramon Leos, a protégé of Nova Uniao founder Andre Pederneiras ... Noad Lahat has served in the Israeli Defense Forces ... Polish import Joanna Jedrzejczyk lists kickboxers Paul Slowinski and Ernesto Hoost as two of her heroes.