Randy Couture vs. Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira finishes out the UFC 102 card.
Nogueira walks to the cage to the sounds of the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter." Nogueira had several physical ailments going into the Frank Mir loss, so there's a good chance he'll make a significantly better showing this time. But any way you slice it, he's been through years of wars, and you still have to wonder if that has caught up with him.
Then again, Randy Couture is 46. Then again, 46 in Randy Couture years is 34 in normal human years.
Round 1: Couture looking to box early. He lands a pair of nice fist combos as Nogueira moves forward. Couture with a nice right hand followed by an uppercut. Nogueira tries to take it to the ground and Couture backs away from that. Nogueira with some fists and Couture ties him up in the clinch. Couture's not staying in the clinch long though, careful to keep it standing. Nogueira lands a nice left-right combo and Couture goes down. Nogueira locks in a D'Arce choke and cranks it with all he's got. Couture doesn't tap and keeps fighting. Nogueira finally lets it go and Couture is back up, to the delight of the pro-Couture crowd. Couture with a right hand and a one-two combo. Nogueira with a combo of his own. Couture with an overhand right and Nogueira is cut above the right eye. They're slugging it out Frye-Takayama style, and the audience rises to its feet and cheers. Incredible brawl. Couture clinches Nogueira against the fence and the round ends. What a crazy war so far. 10-9 Nogueira based on Minotauro being closer to finishing.
Round 2: Couture uses a series of left jabs to try and set up an uppercut. Couture ducks under and Nogueira slaps on a standing guillotine, but Couture slips out of it and follows Nogueira to the ground. Couture working ground and pound from inside Nogueira's guard. Couture keeping his head tucked to Nogueira's chest and landing short elbows and fists from the top. Nogueira sweeps and mounts Couture. Couture tries to turn out of it, and manages to get to half guard. Nogueira throwing punches to the head. Nogueira tries for an arm triangle and re-establishes full mount. Couture's in trouble here. Nogueira with fists to the ribs to try and weaken Couture's defense to the hold. Couture gets free of the triangle attempt but is still mounted by Nogueira. The crowd chants "Randy, Randy." Couture escapes to his feet and the crowd goes bonkers. They slug it out at close range again. Couture tags Nogueira right on the chin with a left but Nog isn't fazed. So his chin isn't completely gone yet. Another great round, which I give to Nogueira 10-9. Couture is fighting like the warrior he is, but Nogueira is consistently the guy closer to finishing.
Round 3: They get right back to swinging at close range and Nogueira drops Couture with a right to the jaw. Nogueira tries to finish Couture on the ground with a barrage of strikes but Couture keeps his hands up, weathers the storm, and manages to get himself into guard. Nogueira passes to side control and keeps pounding away. Couture tries to walk up the cage to get out from beneath Nogueira. Nogueira fighting to keep Couture on the bottom. Couture gives up his back and Nogueira sinks in the hooks. Couture trying to escape out the back door but Nogueira is controlling Couture's arm. Couture completes the reversal and hammers away at Nogueira from the top. Unbelievable. Less than a minute left. Couture lands an elbow to Nogueira's jaw from the top but Nogueira's defending well from the bottom. Couture lands some elbows as Nogueira reverses, right at the final horn. Ridiculous display of heart and skill by a pair of true warriors. 10-9 Nogueira, so I give the bout 30-27 to Minotauro.
Winner: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira defeats Randy Couture via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) after three rounds.
Nogueira thanked the fans in Portland and said Couture is one of his idols in the UFC. He also threw his name in the hat for a possible heavyweight title shot at Brock Lesnar.
"I want to be at the top of the UFC," he said. "I want the title belt. If you guys give me a chance to fight [Brock] Lesnar, it would be my pleasure."
For his part, Couture did not seem to be remotely considering retirement after this loss.
"I was disappointed to lose, but you gotta love this sport, I tell you what," Couture said.
"What keeps me going is guys like Nogueira, interesting fights."
Couture didn't say whether he would stick around at heavyweight or consider a move to another weight class, but he absolutely sounded like a guy who was not yet finished in the Octagon.
"We'll let the dust settle. Take a week, see what the UFC wants to do. I'm here, I'm ready to fight. I feel the best I've ever felt."