Matchmaking Missteps – Nogueira-Schaub
Today the UFC announced that Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira will make his return to the octagon in his native Brazil this August at UFC 134. Having Nogueira on the first card in Brazil since 1998 is fitting, but I can’t say I agree with his choice of opponent at all. I understand that Brendan Schaub has been campaigning for this fight for a significant period of time, but the UFC needs to realize when pandering to their fighters is a good idea and when it just doesn’t work.
There are plenty of instances where fighters have called for fights and the fan response has immediately been positive. The recent match made between Dan Hardy and Chris Lytle is an excellent example, among many, many others. However, in all the time that Schaub has apparently been asking for this fight, I can’t say I’ve seen a single person say, “You know what fight I’d really like to see? Nogueira/Schaub. That really turns my crank.” You know why? 1) It’s not an intriguing fight stylistically, and 2) It’s not an intriguing fight in terms of advancing either fighter.
This is a fight very similar to Schaub/Gonzaga in that Schaub wants to keep it standing, not take many risks, and win from the outside. Much like Gonzaga, Nogueira has very few avenues to take this fight to the ground effectively, and will be forced to fight what will essentially amount to a Boxing match with two or three kicks thrown in for good measure. Working with that assumption, this is simply not a winnable fight for Nogueira. Technically his Boxing is adequate, but he lacks basic defensive concepts like head movement, and at this point in his career moves like he’s fighting through a jar of molasses. Schaub is younger, quicker and should be able to beat Minotauro to the punch all night long.
Moving on to where each fighter would go from here, with a win over Schaub, Nogueira could potentially be matched up with a low top 10 HW, but that’s the type of match people expect him to be in as it is. The loser of Mir/Nelson could be appealing, because a Nelson fight would likely be more evenly matched and entertaining than this fight, and the Mir rematch could be interesting because at least it has a bit of a narrative behind it. Schaub on the other hand doesn’t benefit from beating Nogueira any more than he did from beating Gonzaga or CroCop. A win over Nogueira at this point, particularly under the circumstances of him coming back after what will be an 18-month layoff, is not something that proves one as an elite fighter. I’d be much more interested in something like Schaub/Russow if they’re looking to continue building Brendan up, or actually putting him in there with one of the organization’s top HWs if they want to prove him as a contender. Both ideas have more redeeming qualities than watching what will likely be a lacklustre affair with an aging legend who deserves better.
Looking at the drawbacks of this fight compared to its potential benefits, I don’t understand why it was made. Neither fighter truly benefits from a win, and the fans aren’t likely to see a great fight. I am a fan of Joe Silva’s work in about 95% of cases, but sometimes I just don’t follow the logic behind a match, and this is definitely one of those cases.