The UFC’s final installment on Fuel TV will take place on Saturday, June 8, from the Ginasio Paulo Sarasate in Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil. Its final event on the cable network will feature a heavyweight rematch seven years in the making as Brazilians Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Fabricio Werdum lock horns for the second time.

The pair will enter the cage on the heels of coaching against each other on the second season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil. Nogueira earned a unanimous decision win over Werdum in 2006 under the Pride FC banner, and now each will look to move up the heavyweight ladder with a win.

With a second-round armbar submission of Dave Herman at UFC 153 last fall, Nogueira proved he was fully recovered from a gruesome broken arm suffered at the hands of Frank Mir. The 37-year-old has struggled to find consistency in the Octagon since claiming and losing the interim championship in 2008.

Meanwhile, Werdum has scored back-to-back wins over Roy Nelson and Mike Russow since returning to the promotion following a stint with Strikeforce. The grappling ace is poised to make a title run provided he can exact revenge from his fellow countryman.

Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills match up against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Nogueira – 10, Werdum – 9

Nogueira (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

On paper, it would be easy to give Werdum the advantage in the stand-up department. After all, Nogueira has 43 career bouts and only three knockouts to his credit, whereas Werdum has five in 22 outings. But it really boils down to how comfortable each fighter is on their feet. Without question, both of these fighters are better suited for attacking on the ground, but each has developed a solid striking base to complement their biggest weapon.

Nogueira’s stand-up is all about his boxing. Like his twin brother, Antonio Rogerio, who has medaled in the Pan American games, the larger Nogueira has strong footwork and uses angles well. He rocked Werdum multiple times in the first meeting, first with a perfectly timed left hook and then a massive right hand later in the fight. His resume is misleading because a number of his submission wins were set up by his crisp striking, as he pounced on an already-hurt opponent. That approach backfired on him against the aforementioned Mir, but in general, Nogueira is the more comfortable fighter on the feet.

Werdum’s striking base is Muay Thai and he’s learned his craft from one of the very best in Master Rafael Cordeiro at King’s MMA. The former Chute Boxe coach is credited with building up Wanderlei Silva and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in the past. Werdum’s work with Cordeiro has been evident through the years. His opponents can no longer focus on avoiding the takedown in close quarters, as he will unleash punishing knees. Both Nelson and former Strikeforce champ Alistair Overeem have been on the receiving end of said knees. But, with that said, Werdum does not look fluid on his feet. As a naturally gifted grappler, it is understandable that he may never look like a pure striker. And, for this reason, the stand-up tips slightly in favor of Nogueira.

Ground Game: Nogueira – 9, Werdum – 10

Werdum (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

In all honesty, it’s hard to envision any situation where a decorated black belt like Nogueira would be at a disadvantage on the ground. However, following the loss to Mir, there is some doubt surrounding what once seemed like an invincible submission game. Nogueira excels at positioning on the mat and has great sweeps from the bottom position. His go-to moves in recent years have been the D’arce and anaconda chokes, but he’s unlikely to finish Werdum with either of those attacks. In all likelihood, Nogueira is going to want to keep this fight on the feet and try to out-box Werdum much the way he did in the first fight.

You’re probably asking why would a third-degree black belt like Nogueira not want to fight on the mat? The answer: Werdum may be the most dangerous heavyweight grappler ever. His multiple Abu Dhabi and World jiu-jitsu titles speak for themselves. The Brazilian’s guard game is easily the most lethal in the division. He holds submission wins over both Emelianenko brothers and one over the aforementioned Overeem. Werdum struggled to maintain top control in the pair’s first fight, but in terms of pure grappling credentials and abilities, Werdum holds the edge.

Wrestling: Nogueira – 10, Werdum – 10

Nogueira (top) (Marcelo Alonso/Sherdog)

With neither fighter having a true wrestling background, this area should probably just be called takedowns in this instance. Both fighters possess black belts in judo and tend to use trips and throws in an effort to get fights to the ground. Nogueira’s takedown defense is the better of the two fighters, but Werdum has the strength advantage.

Neither fighter will be shooting for double legs in this fight, but don’t be surprised if the fight finds its way to the mat often. Each fighter scored with numerous trip takedowns in the first meeting, but it was Nogueira who got the better of the positional battles. Even when Werdum did get on top, Nogueira was able to escape and get back to his feet.


In the first meeting between these two in 2006, Nogueira was in the prime of his career and Werdum was just learning the tricks of the trade. Since then, Werdum is the fighter who has improved the most, but is it enough to overwhelm his countryman? Nogueira’s body has taken more punishment inside the cage and ring throughout his career than most fighters will take competing and training combined. That abuse has led to inconsistency in the twilight of his career, and his ability to endure another three rounds with Werdum has to be a concern.

Total: Nogueira – 29, Werdum – 29

Verdict: Although only two years younger than Nogueira, Werdum is the fresher, hungrier fighter. Nogueira is already established as a legend of the sport and has nothing left to prove. I don’t see this fight playing out like the first one. Werdum wants a shot at the title and he’ll move one step closer with a hard-fought decision win over “Minotauro.”

Top Photo: Fabricio Werdum (Sherdog)

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