Randy Couture vs Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, UFC 102 Betting Odds and Analysis
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (+155, Sportsbook) vs Randy Couture (-170, 5Dimes)
These two fighters should have met years ago. Now we get to see these two legends go at when they are both past their prime. That doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity to make some money though.
Let’s start with the age defying former champion Randy Couture. Since his return to the heavyweight division and retirement, he has looked amazing. His fight with Tim Silvia to take the belt was one of the most exciting fights I’ve ever seen in the octagon. Randy out boxed, out worked, and simply out fought Silvia for a lopsided unanimous decision win. This was 11 days before his 44th birthday.
After he took the belt, people started to worry about who he would fight next. It was assumed that Cro Cop would destroy him, but that didn’t have a chance to occur as he was knocked out by Gabriel Gonzaga. So, then people were worried about his fight with Gonzaga. Instead, Randy completely dominated that fight with world class Greco-Roman wrestling and clinch work.
After the Gonzaga fight, there was the whole mess with Couture attempting to leave the UFC to fight Fedor Emelianenko. That didn’t happen and he just ended up staying out of the cage for over a year and his eventual return fight with Brock Lesnar. Now the Lesnar fight was a very interesting matchup. Couture had the experience and Lesnar had the size and athleticism. In the end, Randy did very well until he got clipped with a wild hook from Lesnar. This fight with Nogueira will be his first fight since losing the belt.
Randy’s style is firmly rooted in Greco-Roman wrestling. He is extremely good at working guys over in the clinch, punishing them with dirty boxing, and then taking them down to the mat. For most of his career, it was his standup that had the holes in it. However, since his return to the cage, he has showed some awesome striking skills that incorporates hard overhand strikes and good head movement to avoid damage. Tim Silvia was unable to touch him with his jab and instead got out struck even though he had a huge height and reach advantage.
Another area of weakness in Randy’s fight game in the past has been his submission defense. His first three loses came by submission, however, he hasn’t been submitted in an MMA match since 2001. In fact, he took Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza to a draw in a grappling match 3 years ago. Jacare is a two time Openweight World Jiu-Jitsu Champion, and even though it was only a grappling match, such a feat does give an inkling as to how developed Randy’s submission defense has become. It should also be noted that wrestlers usually have a knack for learning BJJ and especially submission defense. Randy has top notch submission defense especially in his comfort areas, in top control or half guard. We have also seen an evolution in MMA in which fighters don’t necessarily have to be experts in grappling, but just have enough awareness to stay out of submissions. Randy has that kind of awareness.
Speaking of submissions, this is a great place to introduce Randy’s opponent Big Nog. Now, Nogueira made his name over Japan in the defunct Pride organization. He was the first to hold the heavyweight belt in Pride before losing it to Fedor. While fighting in Japan, the BJJ fighter accrued an extremely enviable resume of wins over many top fighters that include Cro Cop, Mark Coleman, Heath Herring (twice), Dan Henderson, Fabricio Werdum, Josh Barnett, and Ricco Rodriguez. His biggest problem was always Fedor, who beat him twice.
Since coming to the UFC, he has beaten Heath Herring (for a third time), submitted Tim Siylvia for the interim heavyweight title, and lost the title to Frank Mir. This will be his first fight since losing to Mir.
Style wise, Big Nog is known for two things, durability and crazy submissions after being beat down. He is a very good MMA BJJ practitioner who has had 19 submission wins out of his 31 victories. These submissions have come from both bottom and top positions, so he is well versed in all areas of the ground game. From a wrestling stand point, he has good trips from the clinch, but he does not have that freestyle takedown ability. Standing up, Big Nog has some good hands. However, he lack defensive skills and seems to get knocked down in just about every fight. This mainly comes from his poor head movement and straight up boxing style.
It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that Big Nog is going to want to get this fight to the ground at some point. His greatest strength is his BJJ and he will be looking for the submission in this fight. As such, this fight will be determined by Couture. He has the wrestling skills to take Minotauro down and there is a very very small chance that Big Nog is going to be able to get Randy down.
Standing up, I would have to give the edge to Couture. He may have gotten clipped by Brock, after a year layoff, but he looked just great against Sylvia and Gonzaga. On the other hand, Big Nog has shown a lot of weakness in that area. He was put down by a head kick from Herring and knocked down repeatedly by Silvia and Mir. The best game plan for Couture would be to stay on the feet and keep knocking him down, just like Mir did. There is really no reason to go rolling around on the ground with a BJJ ace if he can be beat on the feet.
Another interesting aspect of this fights are the rumors and potential mental problems circulating around these two. First, there are reports out of Nogueira’s camp that he has been knocked out repeatedly in sparring sessions. This could all be smoke and mirrors, but I can’t remember a time when Big Nog has done such a thing as spread false rumors. Secondly, Randy just went through a divorce of his wife, Kim Couture. That may not seem like much, but he has said in the past that a major factor in his losses to Chuck Liddell was his second divorce that was going on at the time. Finally, there are a lot of questions about Randy’s age and the past beatings that Minotauro has received. Randy is the older fighter, but Big Nog looks to have accrued a lot more wear and tear over the years.
In the end, both of these fighters are coming off losses. Usually, when a fighter comes off a devastating loss, his line his heavily skewed for his next fight. This time around, I have the feeling that the skewing is due to nostalgia, since they both have recent losses. People want to believe that Big Nog’s lost to Mir had more to do with the staph infection he had before the fight. They want to believe that he will have a resurgence of sorts and we’ll see the old Minotauro from the Pride days. What people are forgetting is that styles make fights, and Randy’s style is not a good match up for Big Nog. Randy has the wrestling to decide where this fight will take place. He has the submission defense to stay out of trouble if he does decide to go to the ground, and he has the better boxing skills to batter Nog on the feet, both at range and in the clinch. Ultimately, Couture should probably win this about 65% – 70%. That means that the current lines are a steal at -170.
Final Prediction: Take Randy Couture at -170 for 2 units