Going into UFC 156, not a lot of people gave Antonio Rogerio Nogueira a chance to upset Rashad Evans. But that's what happened.
Was it exciting? No. Was it convincing? No. Was it interesting in any way? No. But Nogueira (21-5) got his hand raised at the end, mainly because he was fighting a drum of January molasses that somehow figured out how to disguise itself as Rashad Evans.
The win certainly extended the career of Nogueira. But should it? And if so, who on Earth would he face next?
Fans respect Lil' Nog for a 12-year pro career spanning 10 promotions and three continents. (We also wouldn't be being honest with ourselves if we didn't acknowledge the reflected glory of twin brother and Hall of Famer Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.)
And if we're being honest with ourselves, it might be time to wonder whether time is running out for Lil Nog. He'll turn 37 in June, and you can see every one of those odometer clicks on his face. He entered the UFC guns blazing in 2009, winning Knockout of the Night and the Fight of the Night in victories over Luiz Cane and Jason Brilz, respectively (though many thought Brilz edged Nogueira).
But then Lil Nog began to flag. In the intervening two years and change, he has only fought four times, thanks to a series of various injuries. He has amassed a 2-2 record in that stretch, with his only win before last night being a come-from-behind win over the now-retired Tito Ortiz.
Can he still compete at this level? Sure. He proved that tonight. And he will, of course, have top-notch jiu-jitsu until the day he passes away. And his boxing is pretty solid, too.
But enough bush-beating and gum-flapping. What's the next step for Lil Nog? My vote goes to Vladimir Matyushenko. The Russian is actually older than Nogueira; he's seen six more summers than Rogerio. (So he's 42.) That might give Nogueira the high note you'd probably want going into retirement.
Or, you could just take this one.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!