UFC Fight Night 39 – Nelson/Nogueira: The Afterglow

So, that was tough to watch. It was also pretty impressive. In the Battle of the Bigs, Big Country boasts he is bigger.

It didn’t take long for Roy Nelson to reveal that time is not on Big Nog’s side.  In a performance that didn’t get past the first round, Roy Nelson left Nogueira flattened like a tuna stiffening on the deck of a fishing charter.

He had already landed a stiff right early in the fight that left Big Nog shuffling around the cage in a fog.  From there, Nelson waited for the opening and ended the fight with a second right, clubbing Nogueira like a baby seal and effectively closing the door on Big Nog’s career.

I was wrong about what I said previously.  This wasn’t a fun fight. Many will eulogize Minotauro’s career after this fight. They will write about his days in Pride FC, his wars with Fedor, his ability to come back from the brink of losing consciousness.  But it won’t be before they discuss the visage of the legend as he laid stiffening on the canvas at Abu-Dhabi.  That will be Nogueira’s last impression on many, unfortunately.  There is nothing fun about watching Big Nog fight in 2014. 45 fights, with the lion’s share being memorable performances that inspired people just like Roy Nelson.  That is a lifetime of wars that few fighters will even come close to sniffing.  I’ve seen all I care to of Nogueira as a fighter.  He cannot show me anything else.  He doesn’t have to.  Like Big Nog himself, we’ll always have Pride.

For Roy Nelson, beating a legend like Big Nog, particularly in the fashion in which he did, is a peacock-sized feather in your hat.  However, it doesn’t get you near Cain Velasquez either. There is little Roy Nelson showed that he hasn’t before in the Octagon. Lots of power and lots of movement usually equals a win for Nelson against everyone outside of the top 5 in the division. He still needs a win over a top-5 opponent, and likely in stunning fashion, before his name gets volleyed in title talk.

To Nelson’s credit, he leaves the fight in good health, in good time, and with a good performance.  Seeing him in a quick turnaround would be a great next move.  Staying active in a division where the numbers are thin can only help to advance his climb.

 OF THE NIGHT PERFORMANCES

“Evolution of the Caveman”

Obviously, most chatter from Fight Night 39 will be devoted to Roy Nelson’s brutal KO. However, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Clay Guida deserve a lot of column space, as well.  In fact, much of that space should be directed to Clay Guida.  For those bemoaning The Carpenter’s “safe” approach compared to the caveman of old approach, Guida’s performance in Abu-Dhabi gave them a plate of crow on which to gorge themselves.  Guida has done something really remarkable.  He went from a Wildman brawler with flailing punches and Kirk Hammett-inspired hair-thrashing to a safer, less-risk taking fighter, to a fighter who is measured in his attack but not in its ferocity.  He rocked Kawajiri early on, but rather than waylay into the downed Kawajiri, Guida was patient. As the fight turned into a grappling match, Guida adjusted his attack to match the direction the fight was heading.  When The Crusher had Guida in bad spots, Guida managed to scramble and work offensively when the opportunities presented themselves.  He was smart but no less savage.  He’s always had cardio and the ability to go the distance, but Guida 3.0 looks to be a very different kind of beast, and with his penchant to fight in two different divisions, this metamorphosis can only help him plow through both.

“Like Ants on Honey”

Ramsey Nijem wasted little time in removing the resonant shine Beneil Dariush wore to the cage after besting Charlie Brenneman in his last fight and being picked as a heavy favorite.  Nijem seemed to be offended at the underdog label.  So much so, that his mauling of Dariush almost looked criminal.

The enthusiasm with which he entered the cage could not be contained and echoed across continents a day away.  Despite being floored early on by Dariush, Nijem kept calm and leveled Dariush with a counter that sent Dariush into panic-mode. The decidedly pro-Nijem crowd could barely contain their pleasure watching Nijem mollywop Dariush with a blanketing ground-and-pound display for which Dariush could not find an out.  Most fighters in that position punch themselves out, wasting energy attempting to Donkey-Kong their downed-opponent.  Nijem never seemed to gas despite scramble after scramble by Dariush, who didn’t look for an easy exit.  Much credit should also be doled out to referee Neil Hall for affording Dariush ample opportunity to defend himself before putting the fire out and calling the fight for Nijem.  Nijem is proof that a change in scenery can give a fighter new life.  Empower MMA seems to have found the on switch for Nijem’s beast mode. And just like that, the lightweight division continues to get crowded.

“Notorious”

Despite not having fought since August 2013 and spending most of that time on the mend, Conor McGregor was on the minds and lips of two different fighters, Clay Guida and Jim Alers, at Abu-Dhabi. Add these gents along with Cole Miller and Diego Sanchez to the long line of people with McGregor in their crosshairs and suddenly, the line stretches around the block.  Apparently, there is a velvet rope at the top of the 145-pound division and you have to drop Conor McGregor’s name to get in.  Most of the time, the fighters in a division can’t stop from calling out the champ.  But outside of Cub Swanson, no one else seems to be focused on Aldo. Say what you will about McGregor, the guy doesn’t have to even open him mouth to keep himself relevant.  The rest of the 145ers are doing it for him.  He should buy the entire featherweight division a round of drinks for all of the free press they are giving him.

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