Couture vs. Nogueira: "battle of the good guys"

CanWest News Service
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SASKATOON - They're two of mixed-martial-arts' most revered fighters, each a champion many times over, each with a resume most MMA competitors could only dream about.
But when Ultimate Fighting Championship superstars Randy Couture and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira square off Saturday night at UFC 102 in Portland, Ore., no title will be on the line. No title needs to be, though, not when it's two of the all-time greats going head-to-head.
"It's the battle of the good guys," said UFC president Dana White on Thursday in Portland at the pre-event press conference.
"I don't think this needs to be one of those trash-talking fights. It's two classy, respectable legends that are finally going to go at it.
"A lot of people have been waiting a long time to see these two fight."
The admiration the main eventers have for each other has been apparent throughout the buildup for UFC 102.
"I think it's easier to compete against someone you respect and that you think more of," said Couture, who enters the night with a 16-9 record.
"I think any kind of animosity or any of those other kind of feelings just get in the way of that, get in the way of clear thinking and focused thinking. So having a healthy respect for your opponent forces you to work hard, forces you to train and sharpen tools you need or think you need to win fights."
Nogueira (31-5-1) called it "an honour" to be in the ring with 'The Natural.'
"This fight I've got to be ready for," he said.
"When we respect the guy, it pushes you to train. I know I took the fight very seriously, so I train very hard."
White on Thursday said that "styles make fights," and that the UFC 102 main event pits Couture - a world-class wrestler and crafty MMA boxer - against arguably the greatest heavyweight jiu-jitsu expert in the game.
"What makes this fight so interesting is Couture usually likes to get guys down on the ground and I don't think he's going to be too excited to get Nogueira on the ground. He's going to probably want to keep it on his feet and Nogueira's good on his feet, too."
White said a win at UFC 102 would keep one of the fighters near the top of the heavyweight mix, right alongside champion Brock Lesnar, contenders Shane Carwin and Cain Velasquez, ex-champ Frank Mir, plus others such as Mirko Cro Cop and Junior dos Santos.
One year ago, Couture and Nogueira owned a share of the UFC heavyweight crown and were one win each away from meeting to decide the undisputed heavyweight king: Couture had left UFC over a contract dispute but was still recognized as champ; Nogueira, in the meantime, defeated Tim Sylvia to win the interim title. But after Couture returned, he lost his share of the title to Lesnar, while Nogueira was beaten by Frank Mir.
Each knows the other fighter will be doing everything he can to end his losing streak at one.
"I have to prepare for the best Minotauro we've ever seen," said Couture.
"I think he's going to be prepared. I think he's going to have come through a great training camp and be ready to go as hard as he needs to go for this fight."
In other matches at UFC 102:
• Keith Jardine (14-6-1), coming off a close decision loss to Quinton Jackson, takes on Thiago Silva (13-1) in a light heavyweight bout between two potential title contenders;
• Chris Leben (18-5) goes against Jake Rosholt (5-1) in a middleweight match;
• Nate Marquardt (31-8-2) squares off with Demian Maia (11-0) in a middleweight fight;
• Brandon Vera (10-3) goes head-to-head with Canadian Krzysztof Soszynski (19-9-1) in a light heavyweight affair.
• On the undercard, Canadian Tim Hague (10-1) meets Todd Duffee (5-0) in a heavyweight bout.

Organizations: Canadian Krzysztof Soszynski

Geographic location: SASKATOON, Portland, Ore., Portland

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