While the most common topics leading up to Super Bowl XLII this weekend are the Patriots run for a perfect season and
Two of the promotion's weakest divisions -- heavyweight and middleweight -- will receive the majority of the main card attention with five fights between the two scheduled on the card. The heavyweight division in particular provides us with two notable questions: 1) Who will be the interim titleholder, and 2) Can an inexperienced phenom defeat a seasoned veteran?
Nogueira brings, possibly, the best jiu-jitsu game of any heavyweight in the world and is also quite good with his stand-up game, making him an all-around threat. However, he has to consider himself lucky to have survived his UFC debut against familiar PRIDE foe
While Nogueira's presence in this fight is not unexpected, UFC President
Instead the heavyweight division is a mess and its champ, Couture, no longer wants to fight in the UFC, giving way to this interim title fight. Emelianenko signed with another promotion (M-1 Global), Cro Cop has thus far been a flop, and Vera was defeated by Sylvia in his last fight. So, we find ourselves with the "Maine-iac" in yet another title match.
Sylvia's main asset is his height. At 6-foot-8, he stands seven inches taller than Nogueira. While he's not blessed with an abundance of athletic skill and his style can best be described as plodding, Sylvia has an impressive 9-3 record in the UFC including wins in six out of his last seven bouts. Even though he is considered a striker, Sylvia continues to work on his ground game and is not easy to take down or submit. The main rub against him is that five of his last six fights have gone to decision and they haven't exactly been barnburners. The Sylvia who came up through the ranks with exciting victories is no more. In his place is a man who is just good enough to eke out victories in, what have lately been, five rounds of boredom.
Will Nogueira be able to use his veteran guile and all-around skill to overcome the lumbering Sylvia much the same way Couture did nearly eleven months ago? Or will Sylvia smother Nogueira with his length standing up and do just enough to survive on the ground? Whatever the answer, expect this fight to go the distance.
I have a confession to make. I grew up on a steady diet of professional wrestling. I used to watch the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) on weekends, the National Wrestling Alliance on weekdays, and even dabbled in Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (when my parents weren't looking) before I finally outgrew that form of entertainment. So, it is with much curiosity that I will be watching former WWE superstar
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
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
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.
A pervasive question in the UFC middleweight division is who can stand up to champ
In one matchup,
In another middleweight bout,
In the final middleweight matchup,