The greatest fight I’ve ever seen is the battle between a young Shogun Rua and Antônio Rogério Nogueira. This is the kind of fight Viking gods put on in the background while they hold orgies in Valhalla. This fight was so wrought with testosterone that every woman within 50 miles was impregnated immediately, and the babies all came out with chests covered in hair, holding glasses of whiskey.
A little background: Shogun was coming off a blitzkrieg of Rampage Jackson’s face, a fight that would lead Rampage to say Shogun was the best fighter he ever went up against. Shogun was only 23 at the time, and was seen as the future of the sport, holding a 9-1 record, with all of his victories by KO or TKO stoppage. Nogueira came into the fight with an 11-1 record, his last two over notables Dan Henderson and Alistair Overeem. This was only a quarterfinal match in Prides Middleweight Grand Prix, but it eclipsed every other fight in the tournament.
To add more dramatics to the whole thing, Shogun came from the Chute Box Academy, while Nogueira came from Brazilian Top Team, the two teams were vicious rivals.
Shogun was know for his brutal Muay Thai, and Nogueira, like his older brother, was known for his other-worldly ground game and submissions. The fight did not go how anyone expected. Nogueira got the better of the stand up exchanges, dropping Shogun with a perfect right hand a few minutes in, Shogun fired back and landed some clean shots, but he kept taking the fight to the ground. Shogun would clinch and toss Nogueira to the ground, then brutalize Nogueira with diving punches and face stomps. Shogun was doing everything in his power to turn Nogueira’s head into a bloody crater, and Nogueira absorbed it all.
The whole fight was back and forth, with Nogueira landing clean, precise striking combos, and Shogun getting takedowns from the clinch and sabotaging his opponents face with ground-and-pound. The 3rd round was no different. Shogun started off strong, knocking down Nogueira with a punch and landing a nice clinch takedown. But in the last couple of minutes Nogueira started throwing crisp punches and landing good knees, he was pushing the pace and the judge’s job was only getting tougher. A lazy soccer kick with 30 seconds left allowed Shogun to grab his leg, though, and take him down and maintain top control until the bell rang. The fight was Shoguns.
A couple of months later Shogun defeated Alistair Overeem and Ricardo Arona, in the same night, both in the first round, to win the Pride tournament. But this fight remained the highlight of the entire event.
This is a fight that made many people fall in love with MMA. It was what a fight was supposed to be, non-stop action with two talented fighters doing everything to win.