Two veteran heavyweights looking to stay relevant are set to battle in Abu Dhabi in the main event of UFC Fight Night 39. Both Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Roy Nelson are in bounce-back mode after tasting defeats in their last Octagon appearances. Nogueira was submitted by Fabricio Werdum last June in Brazil, while Nelson was dominated by Daniel Cormier at UFC 166 and dropped a unanimous decision.
Nogueira is a legendary figure in the sport dating back to his former Pride days and was once an interim UFC heavyweight champion. Unfortunately, his Octagon stint has been plagued by injury issues since joining the promotion in 2007. “Minotauro” has only been able to fight nine times under the UFC banner producing a 5-4 record. Another loss for the 37-year-old Brazilian could conceivably spell the end of his storied career.
His biggest UFC triumphs were a victory over Tim Sylvia that earned him an interim title, and a thrilling decision win over Randy Couture back in 2009. While Nogueira enjoys the stand-up game and has solid boxing skills, it is his ground game that has been his biggest asset with 21 of his 34 career victories having come by submission.
In a relatively thin division, a victory for Nogueira would likely land him a top-10 opponent next and keep him in the mix as a major player. He’s never experienced back-to-back losses during his decorated 44-bout career.
Nelson is actually in a very similar position to Nogueira in fighting to keep his UFC career afloat. “Big Country” will be looking to end a two-fight skid as another setback could jeopardize his future with the promotion. The Ultimate Fighter Season 10 winner is as tough as they come possessing one of the best chins in the sport. He has produced six knockout victories inside the Octagon including his last win at UFC 159 against Cheick Kongo. The 37-year-old Nelson is at a make-or-break stage.
Both men are as tough as it comes with their ability to absorb punishment and a willingness to exchange punches could potentially lead to a thrilling affair. Nogueira and Nelson are being given a high profile main event fight to show they can still be fan-friendly fighters. Hopefully they’ll be able to deliver.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports