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Nogueira vs. Velasquez for title shot

Looks like the Awesome Truck came by and dumped some news on us: Big Nog and Cain Velasquez will meet (and fight) on January 2nd to see who gets beat up by the Heavyweight champion next. MMA Junkie has the story:

Today’s officially announced UFC 108 headliner between Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (32-5-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) and Cain Velasquez (7-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) will, in fact, determine a No. 1 contender.

The winner of that fight, which takes place Jan. 2, will meet the winner of UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin.

What does this mean? Find out after the jump…

This is pretty good news considering the show had a main event of Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva in a battle of ‘what do they have left after Machida?’ Looks like 108 isn’t gonna suck as bad as we thought after the postponement of the Heavyweight title match. Yeah, in your face, mono! In your face! The fight is gonna do a good job of replicating the high-stakes that Lesnar vs. Carwin was going to bring the show, not to mention giving the division a chance to set its feet like it desperately needs to. Eventually Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin will fight – you know, barring Shane accidentally building a bridge upside down or Brock “>getting sneezed on again – and the winner will have someone ready to do a stare down in the cage with.

The booking of Nog/Cain shows UFC is doing a pretty good job making Heavyweight lemonade with all these lemons. Before its announcement, trying to find some semblance of order in the division was as fruitless as using &feature=related”>”6 Minute Abs”. There was a jumble of Gonzaga, dos Santos, Velasquez, Nog, Kongo, Mir and whoever else. Now the division is going to develop a clearer hierarchy since the #1 contender spot is going to be filled. You’re gonna begin seeing some consistency in the bookings of title eliminators designed to layout the next year or so of challengers.

One of the more interesting aspects of the fight is how it’ll be sold to the general public. Zuffa are going to have a difficult time drawing something lucky from the storyline barrel. In terms of marketing, both Velasquez and Nogueira are guys you want to protect the image of. It’s like a game of Jenga: one wrong move means years of developing a persona will come crashing down. The two most obvious avenues to take the fight down each involve making one of them the underdog. It can’t be Lesnar vs. Carwin’s Unstoppable Force vs. Immovable Object; they either have to be sympathetic to Nog and make it Wrecking Ball vs. Fighting Spirit, or have Cain get the push of Up-and-comer vs. Wiley Veteran.

The former will probably be the easier choice. We know that Nogueira is so shopworn that he probably sounds like a bowl of Rice Krispies when he walks. Jesus, his eyes are even in terrible condition. The guy was known as a rickety ship until just a few months ago. Zuffa knows the clock is ticking on how long they can cash in on Nog’s past accomplishments, and he knows too. It’s almost like The Rock told him “Know your role”, and he listened and took this fight. They either want Nog to win or they want him to give someone ‘the rub’. If the UFC wants to, they can disregard the one good performance and draw upon the three preceding bad ones to promote him as the durable superhero even though he isn’t anymore.

As for Cain, the sky’s the limit. He’s always been the Heavyweight golden boy for the UFC. In fact, word has it that Dana White signed him on the spot after a personal tryout by AKA and asked why they didn’t bring him to them earlier. So far he hasn’t disappointed; four TKOs and a brutal 15 minute mashing later he has himself a dance with a former divisional kingpin. You can consider Cain the Justin Timberlake of MMA because he’s bringing something back: the lost art of ground and pound. His entire game consists of putting guys down and having his gloves on their face at all times. The Brown Pride stock will skyrocket if Velasquez can continue the run he’s been on by mauling a legend.

They UFC did a pretty good job of setting up a no-lose situation with this fight, much like ordering both a burrito and a taco. Whoever the victor is will be seen as a legitimate threat to the winner of Lesnar/Carwin (*cough*Brock*cough*), with little damage being done to the loser if all goes correctly:

– Nog wins: he’s primed for another David vs. Goliath moment, while Cain is young enough to eventually earn another title shot someday.
– Cain wins: he looks like an unstoppable train that will give the champion a run for his monies, and Nog gets a solemn pat on the back for attempting to valiantly slay the monster.

See, simple as that. No matter the outcome, we will have found a guy we can believe as a challenger. And Cain’s tattoo will expose all the closet racists. Either one is fine.