In Chinese philosophy, the concept of yin and yang shows how two disjunct or opposing forces are interconnected and interdependent in the world—giving rise to each other in turn. Yin and yang are complementary opposites that need each other to keep from sliding into the void.
It's the perfect allegory for this fight, with two totally opposite styles from two totally different backgrounds coming together into what MMA is all about.
How does technique match up with superior athleticism? How does pure wresting match up against pure Jiu-jitsu—long considered the two best bases in MMA? How does a city boy handle a guy who only owns a television so he can watch people shoot deer while he's not shooting deer?
A win for either lands them the heavyweight title.
For Mir, a long road back finally comes to its end. For Lesnar, it's sweet revenge, not just for his loss at UFC 81, but vindication of all the skepticism thrown at his WWE celebrity (which is totally warranted).
A loss, however, slides them into no man's land behind guys like Shane Carwin, Antonio Nogueria, Randy Couture, Junior Dos Santos, and Cain Velasquez.
To put it mildly, this fight will have a huge footprint on the legacies both of these men will leave behind when its all said and done.
Without further ado...
Lesnar's reach, size, and hand speed pose real threats to not only Frank Mir, but to any heavyweight who climbs in with him. His footwork is a little sloppy but his reach makes up for it, and his agility is up there with top middleweights.
He tends to favor his right hand, making him a little more predictable. He's likely never going to be Anderson Silva in the clinch, but he can rock you with it if you try to work in close. Other then that though, you have nothing to worry about from his feet.
His size, speed, and wrestling ability make him almost impossible to stand with for prolonged stretches. He's never been caught clean with a strike yet, so chin untested.
Lesnar has potentially the best takedown ability in mixed martial arts, scramble ability second to none. He looks to transition to dominant positions quickly, likes to throw strikes to set up passes, looks to land big punches to finish fights quickly.
Lesnar also has good passing ability thanks to his inhuman agility. He has been on his back for a total of .1 second in his career.
However, he has submission ability whats-so ever, and seems disinterested in learning how.
He has horrid submissions defense, doesn't understand when he's in danger, and doesn't understand when its safe to attack—or when he should look to smother or gain a better position.
He is a nervous/anxious fighter, and fights with a passion that only a man who really needs to find a toilet could understand.
Lesnar doesn't pass up opportunities when they present themselves. He couldn't spell cerebral, and doesn't listen to corner. Lesnar has never been deeper than three rounds—he is still an MMA Greenhorn.
Mir is technically sound, but he is a jack of all trades—and master of none. He mixes strikes well, and has deceptive power.
Mir can be outdone by better muay thai fighters, and struggles to escape the clinch. He shows poor strength, solid quickness, and a questionable chin. He is too confident in his ability to strike.
He has poor takedown ability, and relies on the other fighter to get fight to the ground. Mir works effectively from both the top and bottom; he looks to submit fighters, prefers joint locks, to chokes, and is technically sound.
He is dangerous from everywhere—you're never safe. Mir doesn't look to pound unless given no alternative.
His MMA IQ is off the charts. Mir is extremely confident in his abilities—he is unflappable, and knows how to gain a mental advantage.
What can we learn from the past?
At UFC 81 Lesnar made his UFC debut in the main event, he was being asked a lot at such an early point in his career.
Pre-fight Frank Mir wasn't given much of a chance; He was 2-2 in the octagon since returning from a total leg reconstruction, one his doctor felt was career-ending. He'd been finished by Brandon Vera and Marcio Cruz, but had just won a fight to save his UFC career, against Antoni Hardonk.
It was hard to make a good case for either fighter—I remember feeling nervous for both fighters when Bruce Buffer was doing his intro's.
Lesnar had all his old friends from the WWE ringside. The UFC were so high on him they had booked him in a co-main event on his debut against a former champion.
You could just feel how anxious he was through the television.
Mir looked totally calm; During the stare-down he, had a coy smile on his face. Frank's always been a confident guy, so I didn't read too much into it at the time.
But in retrospect, it almost seems like he knew exactly how this fight was going to go—as if somebody had come back from the future and told him he was going to win.
When the bell rung and the fight began, the electricity in the building could have been cut and the sheer force of the crowds roar could have kept the lights on in that building.
Five seconds in, Lesnar immediately seizes on a low kick attempt, exploding through Mir with such force you could immediately tell his credentials as a wrestler were legit.
After the takedown, Brock had side control, utilizing perfect control to establish his position.
Ten seconds later, an undeterred Mir attempts a pass to half guard, looking to exploit Lesnar's wide stance—and gaining it easily.
Lesnar responds with a series of punches so quick, that Mir has to look to stop the barrage. He turns into Brock looking to escape to guard, but can't free his leg.
Lesnar doesn't stop his barrage, landing a strike to the back of Mir's head unintentionally.
As he finds a free arm, Frank begins to swing his leg over. At this point, Steve Mazzagati stops the fight and deducts one point from Lesnar for punching to the back of the head. It was one stray strike during Mir's attempt to pass, and no warning is ever given.
The fight restarts in the stand up, at this point we're 30 seconds into the first round. Mir lands a great outside right leg kick, and he hops to throw another. At this moment, Brock throws a straight right that makes Frank recoil, and another pawing right sends him tumbling to the canvas.
Brock is on top of him before he can even hit the canvas.
Lesnar immediately passes to north/south and starts a barrage of hammer-fists. All Mir can do is cover, and get into the fetal position.
Mir tries to get to sprawl rolling into Brocks chest, but Lesnar twirls with the grace of a ballerina into opposite side control—never breaking his striking hail storm.
Mir looks clear-headed, as he spins and almost locks in an armbar. A scramble ensues in which Brock uses his pure athleticism to escape.
They wind up in guard as the clock strikes a minute gone in this frenetic battle.
Lesnar strikes to set up a pass, but Frank defends it well. Frank looks to bring Brock into his guard so he can close it, and Brock muscles him off. Committing the cardinal sin in jiu-jitsu, Lesnar extends his arms to gain space, and Mir comes so close to making him pay for it.
Brock tries to pass to side control, and Mir stuffs it, forcing Brock to his feet.
The mistakes Brock makes here will end the fight.
He looks to spread Frank's legs, but his feet are too far apart and he's to close to Frank's hands. He doesn't understand what's coming when Mir slips his leg through, and fakes to the opposite leg. Brock brings Mir's leg down, looking to pass to side control, but this is a fatal error.
Mir springs the trap rolling for the opposite leg. He's able to isolate the joint, and Brock desperately tries to free his leg as he lunges over Mir.
But the leg slips part of the way out. Brock looks like he knows how to escape, as his leg looks to be in the right spot to push his knee out, but the big man makes no attempt.
Mir locks in the knee-bar. Lesnar taps about 80 times before Steve stops the fight.
Dissecting the tape, both Mir and Lesnar looked equals in the ring for the better part of one minute. In fact, after Frank was dropped after the stand up, he was in real danger of having the fight stopped due to punches.
Although both fighters looked like they were in trouble at some point during that fight, Mir never looked truly rocked at any point. It's safe to assume that on the ground, Lesnar's power isn't good enough to put people to sleep—unless the referee thinks Mir isn't intelligently defending himself.
Best Strategic Options For Second Encounter
Sprawl & Brawl: Lesnar's cinder-blocks have rocked every fighter he's fought so far. He can effectively use his wrestling background to negate the fight ever going to the ground. Mir has no hope of taking Lesnar down, and he's in danger every second the fight stays on its feet.
Air It Out: Lesnar's wrestling ability could be used in the standup, as well—in the form of high amplitude slams, provided he's careful not to get caught in a submission in the process.
The strength discrepancy is big enough to consider it. If it worked for Hughes, against Sakurai, its a viable strategy.
Lay & Pray: With explosive takedowns and raw physical strength, he can keep Mir smothered. In order to get submissions, he requires space, and this strategy requires basic understanding of BJJ defence. But after two years of UFC fighting, he should have that.
Counter Strike: We go back to the ancient Chinese principles—wu wei, or action through inaction. Is also an option. By making Mir the aggressor, it puts him into a role he's likely not prepared to be in. With preparation being such a key for Mir, it would be interesting to see how he would handle such a radical change in pace.
Chop Down: If Lesnar doesn't want any part of you on the ground, then its time to take a page out of Heath Herrings book. Lay in to those thighs, and slow the big man down in the later rounds.
The danger with this strategy is that in the first fight, he was dropped quickly after the first stand up, while attempting to do just this. He's got to be careful, so that straight right doesn't catch him clean.
If It Ain't Broke: As Randy Couture has said in interviews past, "your're almost disadvantaged going into a rematch."
Your opponent gets to make adjustments to what you did in the previous fight. Your only real choice is to go in with the same gameplan and react to the alterations that the other fighter makes on the fly.
This is a tall order versus a fighter who is just as good as you, and it's the number one reason we see so many trilogies in combat sports.
Pull Guard: Damien Maia is a master at this tactic. Go immediately for a takedown, expect to be stuffed battle for the clinch, get over-hooks, and fall while closing guard.
The real question here is: Can Mir even get to the clinch, much less establish over-hooks? It's not the best idea, but it's likely his only option if he's down late in the fight.
The Thales Leites: Most people who read that just cringed, but Lesner's meathead enough to fall for this strategy. Every half punch that lands go down, sell it that you're hurt. Let him think he has you, then spring the trap.
It's a dangerous and underhanded tact, but its one with potential.
Handicapping the Fight
If you're arguing for Brock, it's not a hard case to make. He was caught in a fight he was winning with a leg lock in a situation that's easily correctable.
He has the axiom of rematches on his side, and if he can develop a little patience he can win this fight.
The real questions come from his ability to defend submissions. At his age, his physical gifts will begin to deteriorate, and he needs to develop his all around MMA game if he's going to be a fighter that's a championship contender for a number of years.
If he is, he's going to have to put that to use at UFC 100.
Frank, on the other hand, is coming off a win against Noguera. To date, Mir is the only man to stop Nog in his 50-fight career. Bob Sapp and Fedor couldn't stop the guy in three attempts, but Frank Mir out boxes the guy and beat the heck out of him.
The questions for him are: Does he get over confident? Does he fancy himself a striker? Can he repeat the performance that he showed in the first fight?
Personally, I think Mir is the favorite in this fight, for many of the reasons previously stated—but Mir is also tactician. He relies on his intelligence to win him fights.
This is really the only area in which either fighter has an indomitable advantage:
The ability to weigh the options, and to understand when and where to use the skills at their disposal, is such a crucial advantage.
I have to give him the fight.
Bold Prediction: Mir, second round, Heel Hook.