It's not the main event most were originally hoping for, but the UFC has done a nice job of putting together a heavyweight title fight that will still produce plenty of excitement at UFC 146 on Saturday night.
Following Alistair Overeem's removal from a title fight with champion Junior dos Santos due to a suspension for an elevated T/E ratio, Frank Mir was pegged as the heavyweight division's new top contender and Overeem's replacement.
A dominant winner of his past three fight, Mir is more than deserving of the opportunity and will give dos Santos problems if he can take this fight to the ground. The Brazilian has easily disposed of all his UFC competition by using his superior boxing and rarely hitting the mat.
Less than a week away from the biggest heavyweight fight thus far in 2012, let's take a look at which fighter has a better chance of walking away from UFC 146 with the belt around their waist.
Frank Mir has knocked out the likes of Mirko Filipovic and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, but there's no doubt Junior dos Santos is the superior striker in this matchup.
The Brazilian champion has been criticized for the lack of kicks he incorporates into his striking, but that didn't seem to matter much when he did an equally impressive number on "Cro Cop" and knocked out Cain Velasquez, Fabricio Werdum and several others.
No heavyweight has looked even remotely comparable against dos Santos when standing. Mir has the tools to be the first, but he'll still definitely be at a disadvantage on his feet.
Edge: dos Santos
Aside from his fights with the monstrous Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir has shown solid takedown defense throughout his career—takedown defense that he won't need whatsoever in this fight.
Since joining the UFC, no opponent has been able to keep dos Santos on the ground—a place he will want to avoid at all costs against Mir, who recently used a kimura to shatter the arm of Nogueira, dos Santos' friend and training partner.
Mir showed improved wrestling in his recent fight against Roy Nelson, but dos Santos has proved more difficult to take to the ground, so the former champion will find difficulty taking this fight to a place he will be more comfortable.
He's not known for possessing devastating ground-and-pound, but Frank Mir is one of the best heavyweight grapplers in MMA history. Though rocked seconds prior, Mir quickly turned the tables on Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira after the Brazilian followed to the canvas.
While we haven't seen dos Santos dominated on the ground since he joined the UFC, the champion certainly doesn't have a history of groundwork that is equal to that of Mir. If dos Santos is forced to fight off of his back in this fight, his odds of winning will decrease from monumental to minimal.
If Nogueira, dos Santos' long-time jiu-jitsu mentor, was submitted so brutally by Mir, it would not be at all surprising if Mir is able to submit the champion in this matchup. Unfortunately for Mir, all fights start standing, so he will first have to take the Brazilian to the canvas.
Taking dos Santos down won't be easy, but Mir should sell out to do so. With dos Santos' only loss of his career coming by submission, Mir will have a great chance of earning back the heavyweight title if he can take the champion down at any point in this bout.
In 15 professional fights, Junior dos Santos has already won a UFC title and competed on Fox. At this point, there's not much that will get into the champion's head during competition. However, an early takedown by Mir could worry dos Santos and force him to make a desperate move to return to his feet.
Whereas dos Santos' success is almost entirely dependent on his ability to stuff takedowns, Mir has displayed the ability to compete at a high level in all areas. Still 27 years old, dos Santos will likely be considered a well-rounded fighter at some point. However, right now, his ground game remains very much unknown.
Carrying a larger frame than he did earlier in his career, Mir's conditioning hasn't been excellent when he's had to go into the later rounds. Against Mirko Filipovic, Mir fought at an extremely slow pace before catching "Cro Cop" with a knee in the third round.
While dos Santos' conditioning was also questioned recently, he silenced critics by dominating Shane Carwin and Roy Nelson for a full three rounds. The Brazilian even scored a couple of takedowns in the final round of his bout with Carwin.
Edge: dos Santos
It's clear that this title fight will be decided by Frank Mir's ability or inability to take Junior dos Santos to the ground. However, as was the case in his bout against a much better wrestler in Cain Velasquez, dos Santos may not even give Mir the opportunity to attempt a takedown.
Knowing he has better striking than any other heavyweight in the world, dos Santos was well aware of the area of his game that he would most need to improve heading into this bout. Therefore, the Brazilian will be prepared to defend takedowns against Mir.
Expect the champion to retain his belt in convincing fashion, as Mir will waste no time in attempting to drag dos Santos to the ground. "Cigano" will once again avoid the ground altogether by blasting the recently suspect chin of Mir with an uppercut.
dos Santos defeats Mir by technical knockout (punches) in the first round.