Werdum gets his revenge on NogueiraJune 9, 2013
The two best Brazilian-born jiu-jitsu-based heavyweights in mixed martial arts history met for a second time on Saturday in sweltering Fortaleza, Brazil.
Seven years ago, when the pair clashed in Tokyo during one of Pride's fabled tournaments, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was still very much a dominant force in the weight class, second only to Russia's Fedor Emelianenko. Fabricio Werdum had some experience then, but was nowhere near the polished weapon he is in 2013.
Nogueira, 37, got by in 2006 with a decision after a close tussle in a ring, but it was Werdum who seized the moment in a cage, scoring a memorable verbal tapout from an armbar at 2:41 of Round 2.
Despite Nogueira's early pressure, the opening period went to Werdum. He moved well, circling then kicking to the inside and outside of Nogueira's lead leg. It was on the floor, however, where Werdum asserted himself, a sign of things to come.
Takedowns came easy for Werdum in the first clash, and little changed in the second meeting. He took dominant positions, outworked "Minotauro" and landed strikes when the opportunity was there. Once Werdum got his jab going, he was able to fend off the former Pride champion, who moved forward and looked to be a bully.
Nogueira's intentions seemed to pay off, as Werdum was caught clock watching a couple times late in the first. This was only perception, though, because Werdum turned it up in the second and totally handled Nogueira.
Werdum came out kicking and jabbing. When Nogueira responded by trying to fight on the inside, Werdum reversed him and scored a double-leg takedown. They scrambled, showing some of the best heavyweight grappling in MMA, and it was Werdum who asserted himself. Werdum toyed with a Kimura, but he let go and instead passed Nogueira's guard. "Minotauro" countered by rolling to his knees, which allowed Werdum to get behind him. It was then that he decided to go for an armbar.
"Then I was able to make him submit. That made me very happy," Werdum said.
The defeat, called when referee Mario Yamasaki heard Nogueira ask out of the fight, marked the second time in three contests that he fell to submission - though at least his arm remained intact, unlike the 2011 Kimura from Frank Mir, which was the first time in his illustrious career he lost by submission.
Werdum (17-5-1) labeled Nogueira a personal idol, and an icon for all Brazilians. Nogueira is just 3-3 since the end of 2008. After stepping on the scales at a slim 237 pounds - his fighting weight during his best days - Nogueira (34-8-1) said he was as prepared as he could be. He put up a good fight, but Werdum was vastly improved from their first encounter.
Werdum, 35, has won three in a row since losing a slow, boring contest with Alistair Overeem in Strikeforce in 2011. That loss came on the heels of Werdum's biggest accomplishment, submitting Emelianenko, which ended a seven-year streak for the Russian atop the heavyweight division.
Saturday's win at the Paulo Sarasate Gymnasium could put Werdum in position to fight for a UFC heavyweight title later this year, though it's unclear if he'll sit and wait for the winner between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos, or be asked to fight one more time. Either way, Werdum said he wants nothing more than for the "UFC to give me a chance to shine with the best in the world."