With the unfortunate news that Forrest Griffin is being forced out of his bout with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira later this month due to injury, the UFC has just three short weeks to find a suitable replacement for the former light heavyweight champion. It is in their best interests to keep Lil Nog on the card as not only will they be losing their co-main event, they would be losing an opportunity to showcase one of the best unknown light heavyweights in all of MMA.
Nogueria is loved by the die-hard fans of mixed martial arts but the fans who for the most part only follow the UFC don’t know much about him. He made a huge splash last November when he knocked out Luiz Cane in just under two minutes at UFC 106. He was then scheduled to face Brandon Vera at UFC 109 but suffered an ankle injury that has kept him on the shelf until now. Six months will have passed since his debut inside the octagon. Fighting Griffin was a great way to get the casual fan more invested in Lil Nog but that is not happening, so let’s take a look and see who would be a suitable replacement.
The 22 year-old hot shot phenom is coming off a devastating TKO victory over the aforementioned Vera just two months ago. Jones has set the world of MMA on fire with his unorthodox striking and his go for broke style. He is currently scheduled to face veteran Vladimir Matyushenko in August on the UFC on Versus 2 show in Utah. Whether or not the UFC would want to throw him into such a high profile bout at this time is the big question. A loss for Jones wouldn’t do as much damage to his career because he is so young but this bout is very intriguing.
Silva has been out of action since January when he lost a unanimous decision to former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans. Reports leading up to the fight and shortly there afterwards claim that Silva’s back injury was much worse than initially stated and he had no business being inside the octagon. News broke yesterday that he will be facing Tim Boetsch at UFC 117 in August. Could he prepare for Lil Nog in three weeks after a four month layoff? It’s a question that is definitely worth asking.
The ultimate light heavyweight gatekeeper is supposed to square off against Matt Hamill at The Ultimate Fighter 11 Finale next month. Jardine definitely has the name to help sell the fight and he has shown when he is on he can hang with just about anyone the UFC puts in front of him. With three losses in a row a victory for Lil Nog may not have the same desired affect that a win over Griffin would have brought. Jardine is the ultimate company man and if he was asked I am sure he would jump at the chance to take this fight.
The two have fought twice before with each fighter taking home a win. Nogueira evened the score in January of 2009 at Affliction: Day of Reckoning when he knocked “The Janitor” out with a knee in the second round. While this fight may not be all that sexy, the UFC hype machine could sell it as the rubber match and set it up as some type of rivalry. Another knockout win for Nogueira would give him bragging rights and make him two for two inside the octagon.
Before you jump all over me allow me to explain my reasoning on this one. First off, Irvin is a light heavyweight. After his bout with Alessio Sakara in March, UFC President Dana White said he would never allow Irvin to fight as a middleweight again. Second, after being off for almost two years the man needs to work. His disappointing loss to Sakara has to be eating at him and he must be chomping at the bit to fight as soon as possible. He has knockout power and is willing to stand and bang which usually leads to an exciting fight. The UFC fans are very familiar with him and he gets brownie points for taking such a tough fight on short notice.
The fact of the matter here is simple. Nogueira is 33 years old and has gone through a lot of wars just as his brother has. If the UFC wants to capitalize on him they need to keep him active and fresh in their fans heads. Who knows when they could get him on another card and without him on this one, UFC 114 loses a lot of its luster.