Though the first fight ended in a unanimous decision win for “Big Nog” in 2006, these guys were a lot younger back then. Fast forward to their rematch this weekend and Werdum is the -320 favorite with Nogueira the +260 underdog. Here’s how these heavyweights match up.
Tale of the tape:
Two big facts to remember: These are heavyweights over the age of 35. Why is that important? First, heavyweights finish 74 percent of their fights, more than any other division. And more than three quarters of those finishes come via strikes rather than submissions.
The main difference between fighters above 35 years of age and their younger counterparts is knockdown resiliency. Older fighter simply can’t take as much punishment on their feet as they used to. Both these factors, combined with the five-round aspect of this fight, make a finish inside the distance very likely.
Hopefully these guys are willing to stand and trade to settle the TUF Brazil 2 rivalry. Nogueira’s training in boxing is contrasted by Werdum’s Muay Thai, but both have accurate hands for big men.
Werdum interestingly has the better jab and higher pace, but “Big Nog” has more knockdown power. Werdum may want to neutralize that threat by pushing the fight against the cage. On defense, both fighters are better than average at avoiding strikes but have suffered more knockdowns than they’ve delivered, and have chins that are worse than the heavyweight average.
This will be compounded by the fact that Nogueira just turned 37 and Werdum turns 36 next month. Being on the tail end of your career is a dangerous thing in the heavyweight division. Since joining Strikeforce and the UFC, these guys have tallied five knockdowns scored but 10 knockdowns received. They each remain dangerous, but also more fragile than ever.
Both fighters boast legitimate BJJ black belt credentials but Werdum is the more decorated grappler. Going to ground has not been a specialty of either fighter and both spend less than a third of their time on the mat.
In fact, each has a takedown success rate that is below average and even worse are their takedown defense rates, which are below the norm. Whether or not either fighter chooses to take this to the ground is hard to predict but Werdum probably has more reason, especially after seeing Frank Mir’s brutal submission of Nogueira 18 months ago.
If either fighter is rocked, they may go for submissions for the finish depending on position. But as the fight goes on, both fighters will tire and submissions will become less likely. The only way this fight goes the distance is if after slugging it out for a bit, they each decide to take the safer route of an exhausted grappling match. That would be bad for a lot of reasons.
Predicting who will land the big punch first is tricky business at heavyweight because either guy has the potential to do so. The numbers give a slight edge to Werdum, especially if he uses the clinch. Again, Nogueira has the better power with his hands, but also the worse chin.
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Reed Kuhn writes for MMAOddsbreaker.com and runs Fightnomics.com.