This past weekend's UFC pay-per-view was titled Nogueira vs. Velasquez, but that only told half the story.
Two legendary 33-year-old Brazilian fighters would be facing somewhat of a crossroads in their career. Antonio "Minotauro" Nogueira would face the fighter who many "experts" believe will conquer the Heavyweight Division sooner rather than later, Cain Velasquez, in the main event. Before the veteran Heavyweight would step into the Octagon, fellow Brazilian Wanderlei "The Ax Murderer" Silva would take on England's Michael Bisping. Unfortunately, this wouldn't be a triumphant night for both.
"The Ax Murderer" had the toughest streak of his career heading into Saturday night. He had lost five of his last seven fights, including two consecutive losses to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Rich Franklin, respectively. Both fights had caused worry from UFC fans for the future of the Brazilian.
Jackson knocked out the former Pride legend in December of 2008. It was quick and decisive, leading many to question whether or not Silva had taken one too many punches to the skull during his illustrious career. The Franklin fight was also troublesome, because Silva struggled to cut his weight down to 195 and was "gassed" by the end. Was Silva now susceptible to knockouts and not motivated?
Well, Silva's side of the story was that a deviated septum and a shattered nose had slowed his pace down and that a recent surgery he received would help much of his trouble. His fight against Bisping after an eight month layoff certainly helped that theory. The fight was everything you'd expect it to be, a very good stand up fight that stopped short of a classic war, but nevertheless entertaining. Silva didn't get tired and in fact his performance at the end of rounds most likely won him the fight, including coming close to knocking Bisping out with 10 seconds left. Message sent.
Unfortunately "Minotauro" was unable to enjoy the same success. Even though Nogueira had won three of his last four fights, one against fan favorite and UFC HOF Randy Couture, many wondered if he could handle the younger athletic Cain Velasquez. Yes, Nogueira was still dangerous, but did he have the "it" that was needed to withstand the powerful youth surging through the UFC Heavyweight Division?
If Saturday was any inclination, it didn't look like it. The fight only lasted two minutes and twenty seconds, when Velasquez landed a vicious right hand to the jaw of Nogueira sending the former UFC Champion to the mat. The rest was most likely a blur for Nogueira, as Velasquez finished with a flurry of punches and the fight was mercifully stopped.
Sure, getting knocked out isn't anything new for a UFC event, but it was the obvious separation between the two fighters' skills that was disturbing for Nogueira fans. The Brazilian looked slow and even plodding at times. He was simply no match for Velasquez's surprising stand-up skills and apparently didn't want to attempt a take down on the highly skilled wrestler, either. Outclassed in stand-up and unwilling to use his Jiu-Jitsu, the result was predictable, a crushing loss for the legend.
In a single night filled with great fights, two legends were respectively reminded of how rewarding the sport can be and how brutally quick it can slice you down. One should not discount the heart of a champion and great fighter like Nogueira, but it seems like it could be a long road ahead fighting younger, bigger and more athletic Heavyweights. Silva, meanwhile, gave his fans hope. At 185, is it possible for another run from "The Ax Murderer"? Only time will tell.
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