UFC 81Something I posted on Tha O Show after being incredibly annoyed by an ill researched article. Saturday night’s UFC 81 saw a co-main event which consisted of Rookie Brock Lesnar vs Frank Mir, and Tim Sylvia vs former Pride superstar Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Going in you had two former heavyweight champions who had not impressed anybody in several fights, one totally untested name, and the final piece of the “Pride as myth” legend. Before these fights the division looked pretty thin with only a couple of bright spots. After the fights, there are four legitimate contenders to the throne.

Vegas bookies were rating the 30 year old 265 pound former NCAA star Brock Lesnar the favourite against the 28 year old 255 pound former UFC heavyweight champion of the world Frank Mir. On paper the fight looked stacked in Lesnar’s favour, he was heavier (by some estimates as much as thirty pounds heavier than Mir), stronger, and had made great strides in the 18 months that he had been training for MMA. Frank Mir on the other hand had not impressed in his previous four fights, despite a 2-2 record. The knock was that Frank Mir no longer had the killer instinct, and lacked heart.

Analysts had predicted that Lesnar would rush Mir, and dominate him with a ground and pound offense. Counter arguments were made that the styles of the men would make this an exciting fight. Wrestlers like Lesnar are most comfortable on top, while Brazilian Ju Jitsu fighters, which Mir is a student of, are more comfortable on their backs.

Personally I didn’t think that Mir stood a chance, until I watched the UFC promo show and saw the old Frank Mir.
Since his motorcycle accident on September 17th 2004, Frank Mir, the once dominant heavyweight monster, had become a shell of his former self. This was a man who so dominated Tim Sylvia in a match that he broke Sylvia’s forearm clean in half during an arm bar attempt. He was 5-1 in the UFC up to that point, and had ended 4 of his 5 victories in the first round. On his return he promptly lost to Marcio Cruz, then eked out a decision win against Dan Christison, lost to Brandon Vera in just over a minute, and soundly caught Antoni Hardonk in a beautiful Kimura.

However during the promo show, you saw the old Frank Mir. There was a crispness to his punches in training, sharpness in his eye, and most importantly, Frank Mir was in the best shape of his career. Mir was training with a wide variety of partners, including a wrestler whom Mir was using to figure out how a wrestler would react in various situations.

Conversely, Lesnar was mostly training with old wrestling partners, and was focusing on his striking and his conditioning, hoping that pure strength would be enough to defeat technique. His training didn’t appear nearly as deep, and looked like he was relying a lot on partners he had used to train for wrestling rather than MMA fighting.

Lesnar came out exactly as critics had suspected, he rushed Mir, and immediately had side control. He levelled fist after fist against Mir, and you could tell that Mir was totally overwhelmed. As Mir tried to change position, Lesnar nailed the back of Mir’s head with a solid right hand. Referee Steve Mazzagatti stood both men up, deducted a point from Lesnar, and restarted the fight. Mir was obviously dazed, and not just from the shot to the back of the head, he had just been owned, and he realized that he was dealing with something he’d never seen before. As Mir said after the fight “I expected him to be strong, but I didn’t expect him to be as fast as he was,”. Lesnar immediately went for a take-down again, and began pummelling Mir again. Mir tried an armbar attempt, but Lesnar’s upper body was just too huge for Mir to gain any advantage. He went for a leg, and managed a kneebar, ankle lock combination, and Lesnar was forced to tap out or suffer permanent damage to his ankle.
Mir showed great respect to Lesnar after the fight saying “I was not winning that fight for the first minute and 20 seconds,”.

Going into Saturday night’s fight, the knock on Tim Sylvia was that he won fights, but was boring to watch. Nogueira on the other hand was fighting against the reputation that Pride guys were missing that “something special” which allowed them to dance in the big show that is UFC. How was it possible that these unstoppable behemoths in Pride were shown to be so easily defeated in UFC? Monsters like Cro Cop had been proven fallible in the UFC.

Sylvia came out and immediately pressed the advantage against Nogueira, and had him rocked early on in the fight. By the end of the first round it looked like the Pride curse would be revisited this night, and Nogueira looked much the worse for wear. The second round began much like the first, with Sylvia getting the early advantage, but the pace slowed significantly as Sylvia started succumbing to exhaustion. Nogueira picked up the pace a little, and may have won a tight second round. The third round started on their feet, but Nogueira drew Sylvia to the ground and worked his way into top control. While working for an armbar, Nogueira managed to draw Sylvia instead into a deep guillotine choke to earn the submission victory.

After the fight Sylvia said “It’s Minotauro. He gets his ass kicked, you start getting comfortable and he catches you,”.

So where can Dana White go as a result of these two fights? Well believe it or not, but instead of two fighters being made, four were actually made.

You have a new heavyweight champion who has broken the myth of the Pride fighter not being able to hang in the ring with the UFC, as so far only Rampage has dominated anyone of significance in the UFC.

You have a new number one contender in Mir, who has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is back.

You have an up and coming rookie who needs some seasoning, but who has shown a TON of potential in his first fight in the big show.

…and you have Tim Sylvia, who showed that he can once again have an exciting match, and that maybe he can still put on a show.

If it were up to me, I would pit Sylvia against Lesnar as soon as possible, and pair up Mir and Nogeuira for the Heavyweight strap. Suddenly there are three legit contenders to Nogeuira’s belt, and the heavyweight landscape doesn’t look nearly as barren as it did this time last week.

For Tha O Show, I’m Brian “Broqq” Garside.