More complete Werdum primed for rematch

His prefight agenda has remained constant for years: train properly, win and move one step closer to a title shot. More often than not, this approach has proved beneficial to UFC heavyweight contender Fabricio Werdum.

Under normal circumstances, Werdum would spend the final few days before fight night relaxing, while his handlers rehash the game plan’s finer points.

But the fight slated to take place Saturday night, in the UFC on Fuel TV 10 main event, is anything but normal. Werdum is returning to his native Brazil to face a fellow countryman and a legend in mixed martial arts -- Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (or "Big Nog" for short).

Heading into this fight, Werdum is excited. Don’t mistake his excitement as a sign of nervousness, however. He is eager to get in the cage against a man he respects immensely.

“Winning this fight will definitely be a big step forward for me in the division,” Werdum told ESPN.com. “But the fact that it’s Big Nog, who is a big guy in the division and who has made a lot in history and continues to make history in the UFC.”

Werdum is convinced this fight will strengthen his case for a title shot in the not-too-distant future. But a victory Saturday night serves additional purposes for the 6-foot-4, 250-pound fighter.

This is a showcase bout for Werdum, who is in his fighting prime. No longer just a jiu-jitsu practitioner, the 35-year-old is equally confident in his striking skills.

It’s a major reason he expects to win impressively while exacting revenge on Nogueira. The two fought July 1, 2006, in Pride FC. Nogueira defeated Werdum by unanimous decision.

But that was then. A lot has changed since, and just about all the changes favor Werdum.

“I’m a lot more experienced now,” said Werdum, who is 16-5-1. “I’m more of a professional fighter. I really took the time to perfect myself in all areas. Back then, I was just a jiu-jitsu fighter. Today I’m at a more advanced stage in my career.

“Back then, when I first fought Big Nog, he was at his peak; now I’m at my peak.”

Werdum might be at his professional and physical peaks as a fighter, but Nogueira isn’t ready to concede anything in either area. At 37, and with 42 pro fights under his belt during a 14-year span, Nogueira remains convinced he can make one more run at the heavyweight title.

He had a solid camp and says his body feels terrific. Nogueira is prepared to push Werdum to the limit Saturday night.

Nogueira (34-7-1) intends to neutralize the excitement Werdum claims to feel heading into the fight with additional motivation he will get from the love showered on him by the Brazilian fans. The determining factor Saturday night, according to Nogueira, will be experience.

“I have more experience than him,” Nogueira said. “And physically, I am in very good shape. I know I can push more in this fight. But I am more experienced than him.

“The people [want] to see who is the better fighter or who is the better coach. It’s extra motivation for me to fight in front of them. He is a very tough guy, but the people motivate me to do better.

“I’ve fought this guy before. I’ve felt him body to body, what he is. He’s strong, he pushes, and he has a lot of tricks in jiu-jitsu. I know he’s improved, but so have I. I know it’s not an easy fight, but I believe in myself.”

Nogueira, however, is going up against a more refined Werdum, who wants to become the UFC heavyweight champion. Before, during and after each training session, Werdum is thinking of the day when UFC president Dana White places the heavyweight title belt around his waist.

A victory Saturday night might catapult Werdum in position to face the Cain Velasquez-Junior dos Santos winner. But an official date for Velasquez-dos Santos III has yet to be announced.

“I really hope I don’t have to wait long for the next fight,” Werdum said. “I want to fight as soon as possible. But I also want to fight for the belt as soon as possible.

“If the UFC says ‘you can fight for the belt, but you will have to wait awhile,’ I will keep training and keep waiting. But if they say [a title shot] is not in your near future, then I will fight whoever they want me to fight.”