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TAKE FIVE: UFC 102:

The battle of the heavyweight greats

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Andy Samuelson

UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture, left, poses with former PRIDE heavyweight champion Antonio Nogueira at the UFC 102 pre-fight news conference in Portland, Ore., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009.

UFC 102

What: UFC’s first show in Portland, Ore.

Main event: Randy Couture vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira; co-main event: Keith Jardin vs. Thiago Silva.

When: Tonight; broadcast begins at 7 p.m.

Tickets: $50 to $600; comcasttix.com

Where: Rose Garden Arena, Portland, Ore.

On TV: Pay-per-view

RANDY COUTURE

Age: 46

Height and weight: 6-2, 220 pounds

UFC record: 13-6; MMA record: 16-9

Fighting base: Las Vegas

Last Fight: Lost to Brock Lesnar by TKO in the second round at UFC 91

Notable: Tonight will be just the second time Couture will fight in a three five-minute round format in the UFC. All his other fights were fought either before five-minute rounds were adopted or have been five-round championship fights.

ANTONIO RODRIGO NOGUEIRA

Age: 33

Height and weight: 6-3, 234 pounds

UFC record: 2-1; MMA record: 31-5-1

Fighting base: Rio de Janeiro

Last fight: Lost to Frank Mir by TKO in the second round at UFC 92

Notable: Things are about to get confusing. UFC President Dana White has confirmed that Nogueira’s twin brother has signed a fighting contract with the organization. Not only are they twins, but they also share the same first and last names. The difference is their middle names, ‘the other’ Nogueira’s being Rogerio.

The UFC will make its Portland debut tonight with UFC 102 at the Rose Garden Arena, but one face in the Octagon won’t be a stranger to the fans filling the stands.

Five-time UFC champ Randy Couture — who was born in Everett, Wash., and spent 14 years in Oregon, where he helped coach wrestling at Oregon State — headlines the UFC’s first event held in the Pacific Northwest with fellow heavyweight legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

“The state of Oregon is a unique place,” Couture said. “It’s a great wrestling state, and it’s turning into a wonderful place for fighting and developing fighters. I think there’s this particular mentality there. I don’t know if it’s the rain or what, but indoor sports, and wrestling especially, have always flourished there, and I think MMA is going to flourish there as well.”

1. Father Time

The age questions may be getting old for the 46-year-old Couture, but as each year passes the inquiries increase.

Couture talks about his diet, work ethic and learning from experience. But frankly, “The Natural” has few answers as to why he’s in better shape now than 12 years ago when he started in the sport.

“I can’t explain that other than that I’ve managed to keep a fairly high fitness level and stayed focused. As we get older, we tend to get smarter and eliminate a lot of things that are distractions, and refine tactics and techniques. That’s what I’ve been focused on,” said Couture (16-9 MMA record), who is fighting for the first time since losing his title to Brock Lesnar at UFC 91 in November.

“We use our bodies as a tool and tools tend to get wear and tear on them. I have some of (the aches and pains of middle age), but it doesn’t take me 10 minutes to get out of bed in the morning. I definitely feel things differently in some regard, but at the same time, I still feel great. I feel like I’m as fast and as explosive as I’ve ever been.”

2. ‘Big Nog’ back

Much like Couture, Nogueira is trying to rebound from a loss, having been stopped for the first time in his career when Frank Mir TKO’d “Minotauro” in the second round of their match at UFC 92 in December.

“The thing I love about this guy is he never talks about his injuries. He was injured for his last fight. He had a staph infection and some neck issues,” UFC President Dana White said of the former PRIDE champ. “I think we’re gonna see the old Nogueira.”

3. Back on track

Much like the main event fighters, co-main event participants Thiago Silva and Keith Jardine are trying to erase memories of their last fights.

Jardine (14-6-1) dropped a close bout to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 96 in March, and Silva (13-1) tasted defeat for the first time when undefeated light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida knocked him out at UFC 94 in January.

“I think Thiago is great,” Jardine said. “When he was undefeated he was running through everybody. Then he ran into an unstoppable force there. I think it might have been a reality check for him, and he might get back to doing something that he was doing right before.

“I don’t know what to expect. He was a guy I’ve been looking at for a couple of years now, a guy coming up and a guy I would probably have to fight.”

4. Middleweight eliminator?

White said the winner of the Nate Marquardt-Demian Maia matchup might get the chance to fight Dan Henderson, with the winner then fighting Anderson Silva for the 185-pound crown.

White had said Henderson would get his long-awaited rematch with Silva, who is also talking about fighting at 205 pounds full-time.

“That’s the fight Dan Henderson wants,” White said. “I’ll probably be fighting Dan Henderson if that fight doesn’t happen.

“I’m gonna see what happens on Saturday. See how this fight goes with Nate and Damian on Saturday and try to figure it out.”

5. Home-crowd advantage

No doubt Couture will be the overwhelming crowd favorite with his ties to the region, but three other local fighters will likely get a boost from their hometown fans.

Chris Leben, born in Portland and formerly managed by Couture, faces three-time NCAA wrestling champ Jake Rosholt.

Evan Dunham was born in Eugene, Ore., but fights out of Las Vegas. The undefeated lightweight takes on Marcus Aurelio.

Ed Herman was born just across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Wash., and fights out of Portland for Team Quest. He faces Aaron Simpson.

Andy Samuelson can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.

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