Vegas showdown UFC-style (cont.)
Posted: Thursday January 31, 2008 11:17AM; Updated: Friday February 1, 2008 9:48AM
Interestingly enough, the Lesnar-Mir bout has drawn more of UFC's marketing attention and online chatter than the interim title fight. Why? Because, in Lesnar, fans have a fighter who may one day live up to his billing as an MMA superstar in a division that badly needs one. Lesnar is young (30), big and powerful (6-foot-3 ½, 265 pounds), a tremendous athlete who tried out for the Minnesota Vikings after leaving WWE, and was the 2000 NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion.
Lesnar's obvious shortcoming is his lack of MMA-specific experience. He's only trained in MMA for a couple of years and has just one professional fight under his belt -- a ground-and-pound victory over unheralded Min Soo Kim last June at K-1's Dynamite!!USA card.
Against Mir, Lesnar faces an opponent whose best days may very well be behind him. Mir defeated Sylvia with a bone-cracking armbar to win the heavyweight title in 2004, but shortly after, the champion suffered severe knee and leg injuries from a motorcycle accident. Those injuries kept Mir out of MMA for about 18 months and he has been lackluster in his return, going 2-2 in the UFC. If there is a positive for Mir, it was his last win via kimura against Dutch kickboxing specialist Antoni Hardonk early in the first round.
Mir's strengths going into this bout are his experience and jiu-jitsu technique. However, Lesnar should have the advantage in strength and wrestling. While Mir believes he is quicker than Lesnar by virtue of being smaller, such an assumption has little basis. After all, part of Lesnar's appeal is his supposed freakish combination of size and speed.
Given his inexperience in the sport, though, Lesnar's game provides fans and opponents with more questions than answers. Will the high-flying acrobatics of pro wrestling mean anything in MMA? Has he developed his striking and submission defense enough to keep Mir away from his comfort zone on the ground? Will he be able to effectively use his power and wrestling to his advantage? Is he MMA fit?
In the end, this contest boils down to natural ability versus experience. While Mir isn't exactly a top-five fighter anymore, there are simply too many unknowns when it comes to Lesnar's game. Lesnar may one day dominate the UFC heavyweight division, but this Saturday he will find out the hard way how much he has to learn before that day arrives.
Prediction: Mir wins by submission in the second round
A pervasive question in the UFC middleweight division is who can stand up to champ Anderson Silva? Rich Franklin lost to him twice in brutal fashion and, now, PRIDE middleweight champ Dan Henderson gets a shot at him in UFC 82 in March. But if Henderson should falter, where will Silva's future challenges come from? Yushin Okami is certainly a candidate, but after him the ranks are quite thin. UFC 81, with three scheduled middleweight fights, should give both White and the fans a little more insight into the status of the promotion's weakest weight class.
In one matchup, Jeremy Horn returns for his third stint in the UFC to take on Nate Marquardt. While he hasn't fought in the promotion in close to twenty months, Horn has always been active, racking up more than 100 MMA fights in his career. He also rides a two-fight winning streak in the UFC's middleweight division entering this bout. Marquardt has tremendous ground skills and, at 28, is a rising UFC star (he has a 4-1 record inside the Octagon) who has also been in MMA for a long time. Marquardt had his chance at the title last July, but fell to Silva by TKO due to strikes.
Prediction: Marquardt wins by submission in the second round
In another middleweight bout, Ricardo Almeida faces Rob Yundt. Almeida returns to action after retiring from the sport for three years. He is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist with a 1-2 UFC record who sports wins over Ryo Chonan, Kazuo Misaki, and Marquardt. Yundt replaces Almeida's original opponent, Alan Belcher, who had to withdraw due to bronchitis. This match marks Yundt's UFC debut and, according to Sherdog.com, he only has six professional fights, all victories in the Alaska Fighting Championship. On his UFC.com profile, Yundt's listed strengths are wrestling and ground-and-pound. Had Belcher been fighting, he would have been my pick, but now the edge goes to Almeida based on his big-league experience.
Prediction: Almeida wins by submission in the first round
In the final middleweight matchup, Marvin Eastman, 38, squares off against Terry Martin, 27. While Eastman has wins over Quinton Jackson and Vernon White, his lifetime record in the Octagon is 0-3 (including a rematch loss to Jackson almost a year ago in Jackson's UFC debut.) Martin is a strong puncher who has found a home in the middleweight division after starting his UFC career with two losses in the light heavyweight division. In fact, it appeared that Martin was on his way to a third straight victory in the division in his last fight against Chris Leben before Leben stunned him with a knockout punch in the third round. In this fight, however, Martin should be the stronger fighter with the more powerful hands.
Prediction: Martin wins by TKO in the second round
Send questions/comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2 of 2