Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira and Randy “The Natural” Couture, two of mixed martial arts most beloved and successful fighters.
Couture and Nogueira have a combined 52 wins, 11 championships and have faced some of the biggest names in MMA.
For several years there were whispers of these two meeting in the cage or the ring. Couture nearly faced Nogueria in the Rings: King of Kings 2000 tournament, however he would lose to Valentijn Overeem in the semi-finals by guillotine choke. Nogueira would end up defeating Overeem to win the tournament.
From 2001-2006, Nogueira would fight in Pride while Couture remained in the UFC. After Nogueira signed with the UFC, rumors circulated that Minotauro would meet The Natural for the UFC Heavyweight crown.
Couture would quit the UFC and Nogueira would defeat Tim Sylvia for the UFC Interim Heavyweight championship.
The Natural would eventually settle his dispute with the UFC, which led to a chain of events that saw both Nogueira and Couture drop their titles to Frank Mir and Brock Lesnar, respectively.
The two would finally meet in the main event of UFC 102. While Couture and Nogueira were big names, fans were skeptical of the match due both fighters being unsuccessful in their title defenses, as well as their age and the damage on their bodies.
Fortunately the fight was more than what fans and critics expected.
The crowd was hot for The Natural, chanting his name as the two fighters exchanged a few shots back and forth before clinching in the center of the octagon. Nogueria drops Couture with a right, immediately locking in a D’ Arce choke before Couture went back to his feet.
The two legends kept the fight standing for the remainder of the first round, Couture with his dirty boxing and Minotauro with his own boxing.
Nogueira and Couture brought the fight to the ground at the beginning of round two. Although The Natural seemed to have control, Nogueira was able to roll mount Couture. Minotauro was able to lock in a triangle choke , only for Couture to get his arm free.
Couture and Nogueira bring the fight back to the fight, trading punches until the buzzer signaled the end of round two.
Early in the third round, Minotauro would drop Couture a right and proceeded with a vicious ground and pound. Although Couture was able to endure the barrage of Nogueira’s punches, Minotauro was able to maintain control for most of the fight.
Nogueira was able to take control of Couture’s back, but The Natural rolled Nogueira and gained top control. Couture threw some elbows to Nogueira’s face, seconds before the end of the fight.
In the end, Nogueira walked away with the decision.
While the fight may have been closer had they fought in their prime, the match between Couture and Nogueira at UFC 102 will be in the memory of MMA fans for years to come.
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