At age 40, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira is primarily getting by on his legendary toughness and his extraordinary heart.
Unfortunately, that's not nearly enough to win a fight with a thoroughbred like Ryan Bader.
Bader absolutely worked over "Li'l Nog" in the main event of UFC Fight Night 100 on Saturday night in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Bader used effortless takedowns to set up brutal ground-and-pound assaults.
Only Nogueira's resilience enabled him to last into the third round at Gymasio Ibrapuera, as he absorbed a beating from Bader until the bout was finally waved off at the 3:51 mark for a TKO.
Bader, who was fighting on the last bout of his UFC contract, has won two straight and seven of eight. His 15 UFC wins place him just one behind Jon Jones for most at light heavyweight in the modern era.
"I started kind of slow a little bit, it took a couple rounds to get going," said Bader (22-5), who also defeated Nogueira at UFC 119. "I turned it on in the third round, turned it on in the ground and pound, postured up and landed some big blows. I've been there before and I paid for it when I had guys hurt, In the first I thought I had him, but I picked my spots. I knew it would come eventually but I wanted to wait for the right spot."
Nogueira (22-8) has dropped three of his past four fights.
In the evening's co-main event, Sao Paulo's own Thomas Almeida had a nice rebound from his first career loss. Facing a game underdog in short-notice replacement Albert Morales (6-1-1) of Los Angeles, Almeida got to show up his superior boxing skills with a second-round TKO victory.
Morales wasn't afraid to wade in during the opening round and he stung Almeida a few times. But entering the danger zone backfired on Morales as Almeida started to land punches in bunches. In the second, Almeida started teeing off, and Morales ate far too many shots before the referee waved it off at the 1:37 mark.
Almeida improved to 22-1 with his 17th career KO/TKO and rebounded from his May loss to fellow bantamweight upstart Cody Garbrandt.
"I'm back, I was not happy with my last fight at all but I was happy to get back in the cage here in Sao Paulo," Almeida said. "Albert is a really tough guy, he can take a lot of shots but that is the type of fight I want to fight and I was up for it."
Brazil's Claudia Gadleha did exactly what she had to do in order to build toward another shot at the strawweight title. Gadelha dominated an overmatched Cortney Casey to win via unanimous decision, on across-the-board scores of 30-27.
There was a moment of controversy in the third round, as Gadelha soccer-kicked a downed Casey. Live, it looked like a kill shot. However, one replay angle appeared to be a glazing blow and another, Gadelha appeared to miss her head entirely and connect with Casey's ponytail.
In the confusion, Gadleha wasn't even docked a point for the foul. After the fight, she apologized for the kick.
"I have to apologize for he,r because I thought she was going to get up and I was trying to hit her body," said Gadelha (14-2), who has never lost to anyone except champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. "She went back down and I hit her head and I want to apologize to her and all the fans."
Poland's Krzysztof Jotko continues his slow-but-steady march up the middleweight division. He used a well-rounded game, in particular a solid ground-and-pound offense, to earn a unanimous decision over veteran Thales Leites via unanimous decision on scores of 29-27 and a pair of 30-27s.
"I trained really hard for this fight, I had a good camp," said Jotko (19-1). "I hope to get to fight a big name in the division."
At welterweight, Kamara Usman improved to 9-1 with a unanimous decision victory over Brazil's Warlley Alves.
Alves (10-2) got off to a solid start in the opening round, as he found a home with several big overhand rights as he pushed the pace. But Usman, a Blackzilian by way of Nigeria, turned the fight in his favor in the second round and really turned it on the the third. Usman battered Alves with his strikes and had a tight triangle choke applied at time expired.
The judges' scores were 29-27, 30-26, and 29-28 as Usman, a former NCAA Division 2 national champ in wrestling, improved to 4-0 in the UFC.
"I wanted to make a statement with that win," Usman said. "That guy's tough in there, he's tough, these guys are contenders in here who are trying to come up and make their name. I wanted to make a statement against guys who said I had no striking, I did it."
In the main card opener, welterweight Sergio Moraes ran his unbeaten streak to 5-0-1 with a split decision victory over Milwaukee's Zak Ottow. While Ottow (14-4), a replacement fighter, gave a good accounting in his UFC debut, Sao Paulo's Moraes, a three-time World Jiu-Jitsu Championship gold medalist, got the best of both the standup and the ground battle.
Ottow took a split decision, getting a pair of 30-27s and an odd 28-29.
"It was a great fight but I was coming off a draw, and sometimes I don't know what the judges are going to see, including tonight," said Moraes (11-2-1). I promise I'm going to go back to the gym and I'm never going to let it go to the judges again."
"This might surprise a lot of people, even my family and friends," Gamburyan said. "It's been tough, this has been a long road, this is my first time being in Brazil. I had a great time, but, I think this is it for me, guys. I'm going to call it a career, probably."
Gamburyan has been with Zuffa since 2007, where he reached the finals of the fondly remembered Ultimate Fighter 5 before losing the finals to Nate Diaz. As a featherweight in the WEC, he rode an impressive win streak to a title shot against then-champion Jose Aldo, where he lost in the second round at WEC 51. He finishes with a career record of 15-10 (1 NC), with nine finishes among his wins.