Pros Picks: Couture vs. Nogueira

By Mike Sloan Aug 28, 2009
How great might this fight have been back in 2004? Back in the days of the old UFC vs. Pride Fighting Championships cold war, one of the dream matchups always pitted Randy Couture opposite Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. As the years slipped away, it seemed likely that a fight between two of the most decorated heavyweights in MMA history would never materialize.

Luckily for fans, Zuffa will make the matchup a reality this Saturday when Couture and Nogueira meet in the UFC 102 main event at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore. recently caught up with dozens of professional fighters and trainers to see where they stood on the showdown.

Zac George: Gotta go with “The Natural” on this one. “Captain America” will neutralize Nog in the clinch and pull off some Greco takedowns and ground-and-pound en route to a unanimous decision.

Thiago Tavares: I believe in Nogueira’s victory. He has a more versatile game and works better in the adversities of the fight. Couture will feel the pressure struggling with Nogueira. Nogueira is much more than a fighter; he is a hero.

Ricardo Liborio: Nogueira via submission in the second round in one of the best matchups ever.

Robert Drysdale: Randy by TKO -- strikes from the closed guard.

Travis Wiuff: Wow, what a great fight. I think Randy takes it by decision. I see him getting the takedown and avoiding Nog’s subs. I think Randy will have a great game plan like he always does and can control the fight wherever it goes.

Pedro Rizzo: I think there will be a lot of striking in the first round; Couture will probably take [him] down but will have a hard time even being on top. In the second round, he gets tired, and in the third, Nogueira [will] submit [him].

Eddy Millis: Couture has this one. I see Randy knocking him out standing [in the] first round via right hand.

Cung Le: Randy by decision.

Dewey Cooper: The question that needs to be answered for me is how much does Nogueira have in his fight mileage? He’s had so many wars and has taken so much punishment, not to mention the brutal beatdown he suffered by the hands and kicks of Frank Mir. I see Randy at his gym often when I’m over there sparring with some of his guys, and he still has it. I see Randy dominating this fight with his basic but effective boxing techniques and winning by KO with ground-and-pound after dropping Nogueira to the canvas. Randy by second-round knockout.

Wallid Ismail: This fight will be tough. It will be a real duel of titans. I think there will be a lot of stand-up striking, but when it goes to the ground, Nogueira submits him.

Jaime Fletcher: Randy gets it done in round two or three. Unless Nog shows some interest in training and fighting, this will be one-sided. I thought he would do so much better against Mir. This fight is a long time in the making. I hope they both bring it.

Michael Guymon: I’m going with Randy in this fight. I think he’s going to dirty box the Acai out of Nog.

Kultar Gill: Minotauro by arm-in guillotine choke in the second.

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: The fight will be hard. Rodrigo is very well prepared, in great shape and, I’m sure, will perform well. Although Couture is very tough, I think Rodrigo submits him.

Tom Gavrilos: I give the boxing advantage to Nog, but Randy will be able to dictate where the fight goes and also avoid Big Nog’s subs. Randy via decision.

Jamie Varner: I have Randy winning a decision with head movement and good dirty boxing and clinch work.

Roan Carneiro: It will be a fight of intelligence. If Minotauro uses his boxing skills, he has a great advantage. And if Couture takes him down, that is where the Minotauro game begins. I believe it will be a Minotauro victory via choke -- guillotine choke or taking the back.

Dave Mandel/

Minotauro is an underdog with the pros.
Ray Steinbeiss: I think Couture can win this fight with dirty boxing and by being smart. Nog has the BJJ advantage, but Randy won’t take it there. I feel Randy will use his boxing skills and takedown defense to win a decision. I hope Nog just had a bad fight against Mir, but I think all the wars he has been in have made him a shot fighter. Randy by decision, 30-27.

Stephane Vigneault: I like both fighters. It’s tough to predict. I see Couture winning a unanimous decision using his dirty boxing and ground-and-pound for three rounds. Randy by ground-n-pound. He has the perfect style to win this one.

Ronys Torres: I’m sure Nogueira will reach 100 percent in this fight, and it will be a war. I think he comes out with the victory because he will take the fight to the ground and show his BJJ.

Rick Roufus: Randy is a master tactician. I think it’ll look the same as every Couture fight. He’ll come out, clinch, dirty box, look for the takedown against the fence and try and smash his face with elbows. Couture wins.

Shonie Carter: Well, here we are again for the original Captain America of MMA, the Natural, the General of MMA Geritol to create another upset. It is the fault of Pfizer and Viagra why Randy will win this epic day of destruction of a mythical monster that walks on two feet in a modern day. You heard it here first from me: second-round TKO [at] 2:37. Money in the bank.

Carlos Barreto: A very interesting fight between two renowned fighters, two legends of the sport. I see this fight as a lesson in MMA. I advise the young aspiring stars of the Octagon to learn from these two masters. Everything will depend on the strategy adopted by Minotauro. If he controls the fight at long and medium distances, trading some punches with Couture, and takes the opportunity to take him down or put him in his feared guard, he will probably have Couture worried and frustrated with the efficiency of his jiu-jitsu. It culminates in a submission in round three.

Erik Paulson: As always in the past, I have had 100 percent faith that Randy will always be prepared physically and strategically for his next battle. My question is will Nog be? I know in his last performance he had a staph [infection] and didn’t prepare at all for that fight. I hope he prepares hard and is in shape to put on a great show for the fans. It’ll be interesting to see Randy’s game plan and how it plays out on an in-shape, well-prepared Nog.

Cristiano Marcello: I believe in Nogueira’s victory because what Couture is best at are the takedowns and aggressiveness on top. Nogueira has an excellent ability to absorb blows and an offensive guard with submissions and sweeps. So I see a fight with plenty of movement from Nogueira, with him winning.

Travis Lutter: I think Randy wins this one [as the] better wrestler. Big Nog is always dangerous, but I just think Randy is going to be too much for him.

Brodie Farber: Couture by decision.

Aloisio Barros: I think it will be a very tough fight for Nogueira, but I believe he wins.

Matt Lindland: Randy fighting in Oregon is going to be great. I would bet on him winning this one.

Jeff Monson: Couture by decision.

Ron Frazier: This fight has been a long time coming. Big Nog is a true legend of the game. Having said that, I expect Randy to win. I know Nog will show his true warrior’s heart and look for a more determined effort coming off the Mir loss. I am biased being one of Randy’s trainers over the last four years, though. Randy’s submission defense is better than people think. This is not the same fighter that lost early in his career by being submitted or the guy who lost top position to Ricco [Rodriguez] and Josh [Barnett]. He has put time in on his ground game. With myself, Shawn Tompkins, Gil Martinez and Chris Ben [training him], his striking and footwork keep getting better and better. I expect Randy to win, maybe with his first KO from standing.

Roland Sarria: Couture by decision.

Lyle Beerbohm: Couture by decision.

Cub Swanson: Couture is gonna win this fight, both standing and on the ground. Couture by second-round TKO.

Mike Dolce: Randy Couture in Portland, Ore., would win even if Brock [Lesnar], Lyoto [Machida], Anderson [Silva], GSP and B.J. [Penn] were all running “Shark Bait” rounds on him.

Jean Silva: Couture’s game is very annoying, because he usually takes the fight to the corners of the cage. But I bet that Nogueira submits him by guillotine choke.

Elvis Sinosic: Randy Couture, the UFC legend, vs. Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira, the Pride legend. This is a fight that has been highly anticipated for quite some time. Of course, this match would have been preferred when both fighters were in their prime, but it is still a great match. Randy is the consummate wrestler who always comes prepared with a great game plan. Minotauro is the consummate grappler with the heart of a champion who never stops. Both recently lost. This fight would have been better as a title fight over five rounds. My head says that Randy will win this. He has the better wrestling. He has more experience in the cage. He looked better in his last outing than Minotauro did. He will look to use his wrestling to pin Minotauro up against the cage and use his dirty boxing and wrestling to punish Minotauro before taking him down for ground-and-pound at the end of each round. The three-round format better suits Randy; if he can’t finish Minotauro, he is more likely to win a decision over three rounds. So it seems logical that in this situation that Randy is the most likely to win this match. Saying that, I’m ignoring my head -- heck, it’s been hit way too much for me to rely on it too much -- and I’m gong with my heart. When I fight, my heart is one of my strengths. I think Minotauro will come back with a fire in his belly. He has something to prove after his last performance. I think he will use his boxing to pepper Randy until he can clinch for a takedown. He will also not be afraid to pull guard and work for subs. I am picking Minotauro to sub in the third round. Here’s hoping my heart gets me through this one and all those blows to my head weren’t for nothing.

James Zikic: Couture [by] unanimous decision in a war of attrition between to gutsy warriors.

Scott Bieri: I hate to pick between two living legends and personal heroes. These guys match up well, and I’m sure both will bring their A game. Oddly enough, of these two high-mileage heavies, the one 13 years younger seems to have endured the worst. Couture wins the decision.

Pete Sell: I’m going with Couture. His submission defense has been great in the past. He grounds-and-pounds Nogueira for three rounds and wins the decision.

John Hackleman: It’s the two oldest guys in MMA. When they fight, if Nogueira is not in his mid 40s, he should be because he looks like it (laughs). The striking should be about even, but once it gets to the ground, Nogueira might have the edge. If this was a boxing match, it would be like Archie Moore vs. Arturo Gatti. I don’t have a pick.

Gustavo Machado: I think it’s a good fight for Nogueira, both ways, standing or on the ground. I know he is very focused for this fight and will return in better shape. I think he even has a chance to knock out Couture, because he is very good with his boxing. I don’t think Couture will want to fight on the ground; he can be submitted or swept. He will work well in the clinch. I think Nogueira will get the takedown, pass the guard and submit him.

Pros that picked Couture: 26
Pros that picked Nogueira: 14
Pros that could not decide: 2

Gleidson Venga contributed to this report.
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