I felt confident predicting Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira would beat Frank Mir via decision at UFC 92. I was also confident that Nogueira’s chin wouldn’t come under fire and that he was in fact the superior striker. I predicted a fight that took to the mats early and for almost the entirety of the match. Ultimately, I was outdone in the ineptitude of my predictions only by the 0-16 Detroit Lions.
Mir won convincingly with a second round TKO, displaying supreme confidence and hands of stone by dropping Nogueira three times. Mir refused to go to the ground, letting Nogueira get up after flooring him.
I would have been happy with either fighter winning, but regardless of whom you root for, you must be happy for Frank Mir. Coming back from an almost fatal motorcycle accident to win the interim title proves that dreams are attainable. An emotional Mir said as much when interviewed by Joe Rogan after the fight.
Brock Lesnar reiterated in a pre-fight interview his preference to face Mir in a title unification fight.
He got his Christmas wish, and we’ll learn a few things in their rematch: Is Mir’s stand-up effective enough to trade with Lesnar? Has Lesnar improved his ground game enough to avoid Mir’s submission attempts? Is Mir finally back to his pre-accident form? Is Brock’s chin superior to Nogueira’s?
The answers to these questions will culminate with only one heavyweight title belt in circulation, but whose waist will it adorn?
I predicted a title unification by Nogueira, which obviously isn’t happening. I’m not comfortable betting against Mir again, but I’m also not comfortable betting against Lesnar after he just beat UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture. Not at this time anyway, although my initial thoughts lean toward Brock winning. I’ll dig deeper into that fight when the time comes.
Other thoughts on UFC 92: Congrats to new light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, who seems to improve dramatically every time he enters the Octagon. I’d like to see him make his first title defense against the winner of the upcoming Lyoto Machida-Thiago Silva fight, but a compelling case has been made for Quinton Jackson getting the first shot after his devastating first-round knockout of Wanderlei Silva.
Speaking of "The Axe Murderer," I can’t help but think he’s done after losing four of his last five fights. Granted they’ve been against top competitors—Cro Cop, Dan Henderson, Chuck Liddell, Keith Jardine, and Rampage—but he would have won at least three of those fights in his pre-2007 form.
Pat Barry made an eye-opening debut at heavyweight by beating Dan Evensen with some vicious leg kicks. I think Barry might have a more promising future at light heavyweight. He weighed in at 235 pounds and it might be a stretch cutting to 205 pounds, but other light heavyweights do it (Liddell and Rampage both walk around at over 220 pounds).
Matt Hamill looked solid with his second-round TKO victory over Andy Reese and a good Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coach could really put him over the hump. One drawback for him is that the light heavyweight division is extremely stacked and he was beaten convincingly by Rich Franklin in the former middleweight champ’s re-entry into the light heavyweight division.
With 2008 in the books, it brings a time of reflection as well as thoughts on the future. We saw some living legends begin to fade—Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes, Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, and Wanderlei Silva—while new stars have emerged in their place—Rashad Evans, Forrest Griffin, Thiago Alves, Brock Lesnar, and Kenny Florian.
The New Year will start off nicely with a Rich Franklin-Dan Henderson fight as well as Shogun Rua returning from injury. The Georges St. Pierre vs. BJ Penn fight could be the best matchup of all-time.
I only say “could be” because as this sport evolves and new fighters emerge, the great ones will always be supplanted by younger, more versatile and more complete fighters. Watching this evolution of the sport will be a privilege.