Profile: Former UFC light heavyweight champion and winner of The Ultimate Fighter 2, Rashad Evans (17-2-1) has been one of the more recognizable faces in the UFC over the last half decade. Evans is a true professional of the sport and helped pioneer the next level of MMA training alongside Keith Jardine at Jackson and Winklejohn’s gym in Alburqurque, New Mexico. He knocked out Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell and has had a nearly spotless record aside from his losses to former and current champions Lyoto Machida and Jon Jones, respectively. It was former training partner Jones who caused a rift between him and Jackson, leading Evans to form the Blackzilians in Boca Raton, Florida with Tyrone Spong, Alistair Overeem and Vitor Belfort just to name just a few. Evans has a dominating style of MMA wrestling to complement his ever-evolving striking. Despite being slightly undersized for a light heavyweight at 5-foot-11, he is massively powerful, and at 33 years of age, he seems to be peaking both physically and mentally.
UFC Light Heavyweight Contender Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (+265)
Profile: Although not as decorated as his older twin brother Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (20-5) is still a fondly remembered staple of the Pride era. Fighting mostly in Japan throughout his career,”Llittle Nog” would go on to take part in what was considered a Fight of the Year against Mauricio Rua in the Pride 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix. Although he lost to Rua, Nog has an extensive resume full of wins over big names. He’s beaten Alistair Overeem twice, submitted Dan Henderson and recently in Affliction and the UFC, knocked out both Luiz Cane and Vladimir Matyushenko. So far his UFC career has been middlesome with a 3-2 mark, including wins over lesser opponents and losses to the “next tier” of light heavyweight contenders in Ryan Bader and Phil Davis. Nogueira is a famed BJJ practitioner, but his struggles in the UFC against strong wrestlers have made many wonderi when his time in the organization will be up.
Opening UFC 156 Odds Analysis: MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas made Evans a big -345 favorite (bet $345 to win $100) while Nogueira opened as a +265 underdog (bet $100 to win $265) according to the MMA odds. This is yet another mind-boggling matchup at light heavyweight between two guys who are simply going through the motions at this point. Nogueira is clearly at the end of his career while Evans looks like he just wants to stay active without fighting a difficult opponent in the near future. A more compelling matchup for Evans would have been to face Chael Sonnen in his return to 205 or drop down to 185 where he could battle similarly built fighters. But UFC president Dana White obviously had bigger plans for Sonnen in matching him up with champion Jon Jones, and Evans did not want to risk losing to a rising prospect in Glover Teixeira either. Enter “Little Nog” who has not fought in nearly a year, and Evans gets a tune-up fight before attempting to work his way back into title consideration and a possible rematch with the champ Jones. What Evans might not realize is that he has a lot to lose here if he does fall to Nogueira, who is three inches taller and may have some surprises in store that could possibly lead to an upset win.