So... Big Nog...
I have to wonder two things: First, how many UFC fans have never heard of him before, and how will his game translate to the UFC? I'll leave the first question hanging and focus on the second, which is much more interesting to me.
Nogueira has fought 17 consecutive fights in Pride (20 there, altogether), and hasn't had much experience outside that organization since 2001, when he had several fights in Rings events. On the one hand, MMA is MMA and it's not as though his skills will abandon him entirely the moment he steps into the Octagon. But on the other hand, it's not quite the same, either. Big Nog vs. the UFC rules:
5-minute rounds, no knees to the head, and no stomping won't be a big deal, I don't think. However, I think the elbows could pose a problem. He'll be matched up against another Pride guy, Heath Herring, who might or might not have added elbows to his pull-down menu of GnP options. Personally, if I was Herring, I'd have spent the last two months working on my Tito Ortiz-style hack n' slash. Nogueira is a tough S.O.B. and has never been (T)KO'd or Submitted, but to my knowledge he's never been attacked by a drawer-full of UFC cutlery either; he has to guard against getting a gash over an eye that would prompt the referee or fight doctor to rain on his parade. Big Nog vs. the Octagon:
The ability of UFC fighters to interact with the cage and use it to their advantage will be a whole new dance for Nogueira. The aforementioned Tito Ortiz-style ground-and-pound involves shoving the hapless victim into the corner (the corner where the floor meets the wall, that is) and taking his lunch-money. In Pride, the fight would be repositioned to the center of the ring, where the fighter on the bottom has plenty of room to stretch his legs, literally and figuratively. Again, if I were Herring, I'd make sure Nogueira's shoulders and back have a waffle-iron look about them by the time the fight is over. Big Nog vs. the UFC judges:
I won't bother to explain the details here, but the "10-point must" scoring system is a bit different from what Nogueira is used to. There's a greater emphasis on winning takedowns and positioning, although Tyson Griffin's recent win over Clay Guida may signal a change in thinking there. If Herring can work the system and keep busy with wrestling shoots and GnP from the top position, he could win a Decision. Of course, Nogueira knows a little about this thing called Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. An arm-bar or a triangle choke could be in the future of many a UFC heavyweight. Those of you who remember Frank Mir during his heyday can see what I'm getting at, and Nogueira is better at it than Mir was. Big Nog vs. history:
Pride fighters have had some mixed - and surprising - results in the UFC Octagon. Cro Cop's debut was fairly predictable, when he spent just under 5 minutes tracking down Eddie Sanchez. We all know how Cro Cop's 2nd fight went, though. Nogueira's opponent, Heath Herring, found out what it's like to be stuck in quicksand in his 1st UFC match, but turned it around for his 2nd. Prodigal son Jens Pulver stepped on a landmine in his return to the Octagon. Rampage Jackson didn't miss a beat, really, although he looked like he had some butterflies for his rematch with Liddell. Nogueira may have an edge here, since one of his training partners is Anderson Silva, whose three Octagon victories have been assured and decisive. Their fighting styles are nothing alike, but I'm sure Silva is telling Nogueira not to sweat it too much.