PHOTOS: Josh Hedges, UFC
Heavyweights Antonio Nogueira and Randy Couture will headline five main fights on the card at UFC 102 this Saturday, Aug. 29, at the Rose Garden.
The winner hopes for a shot at the title versus Brock Lesnar.
But if you're a mixed martial arts fan who has plunked down $50 to $600 to attend the Ultimate Fighting Championship event, you already knew that. So here's a tale-of-the-tape comparison between Couture and Nogueira to tell you what you don't know about the two MMA fighters as well as the basics of their records and preferred fighting styles.
Vitória da Conquista, Brazil
31-5-1. Former Pride FC Champion. Former UFC champion.
: Boxing and Brazilian jujitsu.
16-9. Former two-time UFC champion.
: Greco-Roman wrestling.
How did you get your nickname?
While training as a young boxer in Brazil he faced an older boxer in training who called his wife before sparring with Nogueira and told her he might be late. Why? Because he was training with a guy that was "a real monster, a real minotauro" —a reference to the mythical half-man, half-bull that ate children.
The name dates to 2003 and refers to Couture's Army background and his iconic status in MMA circles. Soon fan drawings surfaced of Couture as the flag-wearing superhero from Marvel Comics, Captain America. (Couture auditioned unsuccessfully for a role in the 2003 Marvel Comics movie Daredevil. )
How did you get into mixed martial arts?
He was a judo fighter at age 5 and began training in the emerging style of Brazilian jujitsu at 14. After watching the UFC when it started in 1993, he says, "I saw that it was very exciting to watch. You never know what is going to happen. So I decided when I was 15 or 16 to become a professional, and everything came very natural."
"I saw the sport on video in 1993, and it was something I had to try," says Couture, who was wrestling in the Army. "After my first fight in UFC as a wrestler I realized that I needed to study some of the other styles to be a complete fighter."
How are you preparing for this fight?
"I am doing a lot of wrestling," he says. "I know he is a wrestler in his background. He does a lot of boxing, too, so I have been training boxing style, too. He has a big right hand. We have been watching tape, watching how he ducks and moves."
"For Nogueira, I want to be sharp in the standing position," Couture says. "I think that is where I have the advantage. But I have to be ready for the ground and the submission game because that is where he is strongest. So if I end up in those spots I need to be ready to deal with it."
What was your worst injury?
Surprisingly, it didn't come in the ring. At age 11, Nogueira survived being run over by a truck in Vitória da Conquista. "That time taught me how to be strong," he says. "When I have a hard training and when I have pain in my back, or my leg, or knee, or just pain in training, it was nothing compared to the hardest time in my life."
In the third round of an August 2007 fight against Brazilian Gabriel Gonzaga, Gonzaga tried a high kick that Couture blocked with his left forearm. It broke Couture's arm, but he may have grunted once before going on to win the fight by TKO. "I had a plate put in over the fracture rather than do a cast," he says casually. "I haven't had any terribly severe injuries."
Do you prefer to make an opponent submit or to knock him out?
Submissions. "To me it is very exciting to get a fighter to submit," he says, "There are a lot of mind games to it."
Either. "You gotta take what you can get," he says. "I don't think either is more satisfying, it is just nice to get a win."
How do you relax?
"I like to spend my time with my daughter and my family," he says. "[And] I live for Vasco de Gama, a [soccer] team in Brazilian Serie B. A few weeks ago I was in the Maracana for the Rio Finals where Flamengo won, and there were more than 100,000 people watching. It was awesome, I like great soccer."
"I don't get much time to relax and unwind," he says. "With the gyms and the other business that I have going like the [Xtreme Couture] clothing line and the supplement line and all that stuff it keeps me pretty busy. I have been given the chance to do some acting and play in some movies [including the upcoming movie The Expendables, starring Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li and Jason Statham], which has been a lot of fun. But any chance I get, I like to be outside. I like to be outdoors and hunt and fish, and that sort of thing.