Cards on opposite sides of the globe this Saturday should hopefully bring the discussion in mixed martial arts back to fighting, where it belongs. With Dream offering its mix of Japanese-flavored MMA early in the morning for those of us in the U.S., and UFC debuting in Indianapolis later that night, there's plenty to gear up for as we head into the weekend.
Sorting through what matters and what doesn't, here's what stands out to me:
It's been 10 months and three fights since
Gone and largely forgotten is that size as Mir prepares to meet 36-year-old
Past successes aren't worth much now for Mir (13-5), who appears confused about where his career is headed -- understandable after being battered in two of his last three fights.
If the 31-year-old Mir loses again, his career will be at a crossroads. If Cro Cop goes down, he may just decide it's the right time to walk away. So there is some intrigue here.
For what it's worth, I'm going with Cro Cop. Concerns over an eye injury have been answered. He's ready to compete. I think he can avoid Mir's takedowns and submissions, and will at some point land damaging strikes.
Bader, 27, a powerful wrestler who concentrated his efforts on becoming a mixed martial artist who can strike and grapple, can't afford to take his focus off Nogueira, a highly respected and ranked light heavyweight who makes few mistakes.
Nogueira (19-3) looked awful in his last bout against
Saturday night, expect to see Bader with his hand raised, making good on a great fight between the two most intriguing prospects in the light heavyweight division. Just don't expect it until 2011 -- Bader is getting married at the end of Oct. and is hoping for a little down time.
It's certainly possible one or more of these men will put on a great performance Saturday. So I'll be watching with interest as the 155-pound division -- as represented at the top by
Sherk (32-4) and Dunham (11-0) meet in very meaningful fight for the UFC ranks. The only way Sherk has a real chance to win is if he's healthy enough to wrestle and mix it up. Forced to stand and box from the outside against Dunham, Sherk won't have a shot. Aoki, who fights on Dream.16 in Nagoya, Japan, (HDNet, 2 a.m. ET), meets
"There's no way this fight is going to be boring," Serra said during the final press conference for UFC 119.
Since they danced a slow dance for the right to challenge
Serra won a squeaker of a decision, exhibiting just a shade more control than Lytle, prompting the professional firefighter to realize he "trained too hard and too long to go out there and think about anything but finishing fights." Neither 170-pounder expects much clinching during a second go in Lytle's hometown. And since no one has more "fight of the night" bonuses in the UFC than Lytle, chances are they'll deliver.
But then what? Can Serra (11-6) or Lytle (29-17-5) multiply a win here into title contention among a group of sharks? Doubtful. So feel free to enjoy it for what it is.
Several options jump out.
The aforementioned Serra vs. Lytle and Bader vs. Nogueira, as well as a lightweight grudge match between
But based on the matchmaking, I'm expecting the weekend's most frenetic action to come from the Dream card. Three bouts in particular come with high expectations despite each fighter sporting a less than stellar record. It shouldn't surprise anyone they all come out of the featherweight division.
Can't be helped.
Sakuraba is a legend in every sense of the word. What's Miller (23-7) intend to do to his hero? Beat him up, which would add him to an expanding list of winners against the Japanese king. Sakuraba has little left, yet he remains captivating to watch. There's a reason a guy like "Mayhem" points to Sakuraba (26-13-1) as his idol.
As for the winner, it has to be Miller. Too much energy and he won't get submitted.