About a month ago, I opined that there was one match-up that could potentially break open the top of the heap in the light heavyweight division if Lyoto Machida happens to defeat Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in the rematch. While most fans don’t see a huge problem with a Machida victory, Machida virtually eliminates all challengers to his belt for a lengthy period as most of those challengers will have already fallen to him. There is, however, the potential for the winner of the UFC 106 showdown between Luis “Banha” Cane (10-1, 3-1 UFC (1 DQ) ) and Antonio “Minotoro” Rogerio Nogueira (17-3) to vault themselves into the mix as a challenger with a win on Saturday night.
While I doubt either man will be put on the spot with a title shot following the rematch between Machida and Rua, the winner should be in line for a shot at a top five opponent in the division and the potential to become a title contender. After all, the UFC has always liked the concept of a new face in the challenger role versus a rematch that has no bad blood.
It won’t be an easy task for either competitor to secure a spot against the top competition in the division in this showdown between two Brazilian fighters who are adept strikers with black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu on the ground. Rogerio is widely known among MMA hardcore fans for his PRIDE performances and his outstanding boxing skills that led him to Super Heavyweight (~201 lbs.) Bronze medal at the 2007 Pan American Games and a Gold medal at the 2006 South American Games. He has a plethora of experience against some of the best in the world as he’s battled current UFC light heavyweight challenger Mauricio “Shogun” Rua to decision as well as defeating Dan Henderson. In fact, he’s one of the only fighters to ever submit Henderson.
Cane isn’t at the same level of experience as Nogueira, but he has begun to impressively rack up a list of wins that will soon rival that of some of the best the light heavyweight division has to offer. He’s built up impressive victories against Jason Lambert, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, and Steve Cantwell over the course of his four-fight career in the UFC, but this will easily be the highest level of talent he’s faced in his entire career. Cane isn’t a slouch on the ground either as he has a black belt as well, but I’m more inclined to think both men will bang it out in this contest.
There are small details in both fighters’ striking games that sway my confidence toward Rogerio in this contest however. In Cane’s previous two fights, he managed to defeat both Sokoudjou and Cantwell while also looking rather mediocre at times in his striking prowess. Sokoudjou did a good job of mixing up his kicks and punches in the first round of their bout while Cantwell’s combinations frustrated Cane at times in their encounter.
Sokoudjou’s major mistake was that he couldn’t string his hands into his kicking attacks very well, and Cane eventually countered during Sokoudjou’s kicking attacks. Cantwell and Cane both grew tired, but Cane’s determination and grit eventually put him through to victory. He’ll need to show some of that same determination against Rogerio if he intends to outlast him through three rounds of boxing.
Rogerio is a guy who can string together solid combinations while also moving in and out of danger to avoid damage. He can be downed by a powerful punch, but he has shown some good defense in his last few fights. While Cane is a decent underdog pick here, Rogerio’s experience and boxing should be able to bring him a win via unanimous decision in this contest, and put him into the mix at the top of the division. Rematch against Mauricio Rua could be in the cards for him.
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