Although the UFC is billing Tim Sylvia versus Antonio Nogueira as the main event, Lesnar-Mir is the fight fans and critics alike are talking about.
Dana White and the UFC have spent countless resources marketing and promoting Brock Lesnar as a legitimate fighter.
They have tried to build hype around Lesnar’s potential and on February second, he will try to live up to all of it.
Lesnar is not just a WWE entertainer, but rather, a former division one NCAA wrestling champion. He is a physical specimen; sculpted with massive muscles and bulk. Besides the advantage of his sheer size, Lesnar is also incredibly athletic.
Despite his girth, Lesnar moves like a man half his size. His sheer strength and athleticism earned him an invite to several NFL training camps, where he performed admirably.
Since early April of 2006, Lesnar has taken these considerable skills and tried to hone them under Greg Nelson, at the Minnesota Mixed Martial Arts Academy.
This training culminated in his first MMA match where he gave us a glimpse of his potential.
Lesnar fought undersized and overwhelmed Min Soo Kim in a fight where Lesnar was able to take him down instantly. The fight lasted less than two minutes and Lesnar finished Kim with vicious ground and pound which forced Kim to submit.
Because of his limited experience, Lesnar’s capabilities and his best strategy against Mir remain a mystery.
Frank Mir is a former UFC World Champion and has defeated the likes of Tank Abbot, Wes Sims, and Tim Sylvia (with the now famous arm-bar). While he has a background in boxing, his strengths are on the ground.
Mir is an accomplished Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner. Six of his ten wins have come via submission, so there is a high probability that Mir will try and force this fight to the ground.
While Lesnar lacks experience, his wrestling background suggests that he should be able to create takedowns. Although Lesnar is incredibly strong, he is running a risk if he chooses to fight from the ground.
Lesnar may be able to impose his will on the ground, but I believe he will try to keep the fight standing to avoid submissions.
In his last several fights, specifically against Brandon Vera, Mir has looked hesitant and immobile on his feet.
He was flat footed against Vera and didn’t move side to side. This resulted in a TKO and he hasn’t looked comfortable standing since.
Another weakness in Mir’s game is his seemingly poor cardio. He has seemed gassed in an array of fights and that could be a problem against Lesnar. While nobody knows if Lesnar can strike, I expect him to use his jab, put on a show, and try to knock Mir out.
Prediction: Lesnar by TKO, round two
Tim Sylvia vs. Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira:
This fight for the interim heavyweight title is hard for me to predict because of the personal bias I have for Nogueira. He has long been a personal favorite of mine and he has proved to be one of the best heavyweights of all-time.
The skilled Brazilian jiu-jitsu artist has notable wins over Bob Sapp, Dan Henderson, Mark Coleman, Gary Goodridge, Ricco Rodriguez, Mirko Cro Cop, Josh Barnett, and Fabricio Werdrum.
Aside from his submission skills, Nogueira has also been a well-rounded boxer, practicing with the Cuban national team.
Nogueira is a versatile MMA fighter and is well-rounded in all aspects. In his 36 professional fights he has never been knocked out—proof of his strong chin. He is also known for his incredible recuperative ability which he displayed in his UFC debut against Heath Herring after a devastating kick to the face. Throughout his career Nogueira has endured some wars and one must wonder at what point those battles start to erode the 31-year-old’s skills.
In stark contrast with Nogueira, Tim Sylvia has been criticized for his lackluster performances and non-killer instinct. His style may not be exciting but he is a smart fighter who understands his strengths and weaknesses.
Sylvia’s strategy stays primarily the same regardless of his opponent. He tries to avoid take-downs, impose his will, and use his reach to stay at a distance.
Opponents must be wary of Sylvia’s striking. He has heavy hands and solid leg kicks and he uses the octagon to smother smaller fighters. Since Nogueira is giving up a lot of weight, it would be in his best interest to try and take Sylvia down, which could prove problematic.
Still, Nogueira has found ways to win against tough opposition before and is a ground technician. Style-wise, Sylvia poses an interesting challenge for Nogueira who will need to use his footwork, quickness, and head movement to pick Sylvia apart to set up the take down.
Prediction: Nogueira by submission, round three