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UFC 114: Antonio Rogerio Nogueira Survives Close Decision vs. Jason Brilz

Everyone thought Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Jason Brilz at UFC 114 was a mismatch. Everyone was wrong.

Brilz, who took the biggest fight of his career on four weeks' notice when Forrest Griffin pulled out of the fight with Nogueira, stunned everyone by going toe-to-toe with Nogueira both on the feet and on the ground for 15 minutes before losing a very close split decision that left the crowd booing.

After they felt each other out on the feet for a minute and a half, Brilz took Nogueira down and landed in his guard. Going to the ground with Nogueira is usually not a good idea, but Brilz actually handled himself quite well before the two fighters went back to their feet after a couple of minutes on the ground. Not a lot was done on the feet until the round ended, and the first round was fairly even.

Things got crazy in the second round, when Brilz followed up a leg kick with a takedown and actually sunk in a tight guillotine choke that would have forced a lot of fighters to tap out. Nogueira (who is brilliant on the ground and has never been submitted), wasn't in serious danger, but it was impressive that Brilz even threatened Nogueira the way he did. Back on their feet in the closing seconds of the round, Brilz landed some huge punches that rocked Nogueira, and as the round ended Nogueira looked wobbly and exhausted.

In the third Brilz took Nogueira down and onto his back again, and although Nogueira had a guillotine attempt, Brilz got free. Nogueira managed to sweep, get on top and hurt Brilz with some punches, but Brilz was relentless and got back to his feet. The fight went back to the ground late in the third and Nogueira had Brilz in trouble, getting him into a crucifix position, but Brilz managed to hang on and survive.

Ultimately two judges scored the fight 29-28 for Nogueira, while one scored it 29-28 for Brilz. I scored it 29-28 for Brilz, but it was a close enough fight that I wasn't surprised to learn two out of three judges gave the first and third rounds to Nogueira.

Brilz was classy in defeat, urging fans not to boo Nogueira, while Nogueira said he knew he needed to improve.

"Brilz is a very tough guy," Nogueira said afterward. "I respect him a lot. ... I promise, next time I will be better."

Nogueira has been mentioned as a future light heavyweight title contender. He'll have to be better to beat the elite fighters of the light heavyweight division.

As for Brilz, his stock has skyrocketed in defeat. He earned a lot of fans, even if Nogueira earned the win.

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