After watching UFC 81 this past weekend, you have to wonder if Frank Mir and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira had a strategy-sharing session backstage, where they both agreed to take a fierce beating before coming back to capture victory. It sounds like an awfully illogical strategy, since it requires one to absorb seemingly unnecessary punishment before securing the victory. But that’s exactly what Nogueira and Mir did. And it worked.
Nogueira is known for his resilience and being able to withstand a brutal striking onslaught (just take a look at his last fight with Heath Herring.) Frank Mir on the other hand seriously looked as if his night was over, as Brock Lesnar reigned blows upon him that appeared to have no end in sight. When Steve Mazagatti stepped in during the opening seconds, I thought Lesnar earned the TKO victory and started to wonder just how good Frank Mir really was. Yet Mazagatti apparently had a different agenda, and made perhaps the quickest point deduction I had ever seen when he ordered one to be taken away from Lesnar for rabbit punches, a.k.a. punches to the back of the head. The fight then resumes, and we all know what happened from there. Mir catches the leg, applies the knee bar with some heel hook just for fun, and taps out the mammoth WWE superstar.
Lesnar Had To Lose
This fight was pretty much a must-lose for Brock Lesnar. Why? Because if Brock were to win, then we would all say he that wasn’t thoroughly tested against the right competition. Then some MMA fans would probably lose a little respect for the sport, after watching an MMA-noob walk through a former champion with such ease. Lesnar’s loss keeps his credentials in check without hurting the integrity of the sport. Keep in mind, a victory over Frank Mir just isn’t enough to give an MMA newcomer the credit they desire. Regardless of how good Frank Mir really is, his perception is still that of a has-been who may go down as the most unimpressive heavy-weight champion the UFC has ever seen. For Brock to garner serious clout in the sport, he has to lose fights before he can win respect.
Just look at Kimbo Slice, he is a muscular freak with brutalizing power and is 2-0 in his short MMA career. However so far no one really seems to care. Why? Because Kimbo has not fought anyone that could prove his worth. He’s rolled through all of his opponents like a rag doll thus far, winning mostly on intimidation alone. Perhaps his next fight against Tank Abbott will finally give him some due credit, but that’s still a couple of weeks away. And so if fate were different to Brock Lesnar on Saturday night, and he instead pounded out Frank Mir early on, it would only have been a paper victory. His record would have gone to 2-0, but the recognition would only have been there so much. Sad as it may seem, Lesnar was the favorite going into the fight and he was supposed to win in the eyes of many. Now that he hasn’t, we can all rest a little easier. Brock actually did exactly what we needed him to do to become a recognized MMA competitor. He proved himself a force to be reckoned with, but comes out a loser due to his inexperience. I can respect that.
Mir Had To Win
As much as Lensar had to lose, Frank Mir needed to win if he had any plans of becoming a heavyweight contender ever again. If Mir were to have lost, he would go back to fighting non-televised under-cards and eventually, the UFC probably wouldn’t even renew his contract. Though Mir was supposed to lose according to many in the MMA universe, he really had to win to keep a remotely respectable reputation. I mean really, if the former champion/bjj master can’t beat the pro-wrestling meat head, what the hell is he doing in the UFC? By beating Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir unfortunately only proved so much.
Let’s face it, Mir did not look very strong early in the fight and could easily have been pounded out if Brock hadn’t broken the rules. Honestly, if Brock Lesnar knew how to keep his punches in the right places, the night would have been his. The question is, was Frank Mir lucky or did his game plan just work perfectly? One could argue either way. Regardless, Frank still has a lot of ground to cover if he wants to be back near the top of the UFC heavy-weight landscape. In my opinion, Frank Mir’s win over Lesnar does little more to further his battle back to the heavy-weight rankings, as it simply allows him to fight another day.
Tim Sylvia Not So Different Than Lesnar
Though Tim Sylvia is long time UFC veteran, he is actually in a similar type of position that Brock Lesnar is in. Sylvia is a guy who was never very popular with the fans until he lost the fight that people really wanted him to lose, while still looking like a solid and tested fighter. When Tim lost to Randy Couture, Couture made him look foolish and Sylvia garnered no additional respect for losing that fight. But now that he has eaten a loss while proving himself able to hang with the best, the fans can sympathize with him a little bit, and push him to be a better competitor.
Therefore, Tim Sylvia trains and becomes a better fighter, maybe stops grinding out decisions, and makes fans happy. Slowly but surely, hardcore Tim Sylvia haters start to respect the guy they once hated watching. Before you know it, Tim Sylvia is the fan favorite….someday. Honestly, most fans just needed Tim to not become the champ again to give us what we really want, some new blood in the heavy-weight division! Now that we can get that, it is easier to allow Tim do what he needs to do to get back on track toward a title shot. Because this time we know that if Tim Sylvia wants to reign supreme in the UFC once more, he will seriously have to work for it.
Nogueira Might Be On The Throne A While
So now we know that Big Nog will face Fabricio Werdum for his first title defense. Well guess what, Nogueira defeated Fabricio Werdum once before only two years ago over in Pride FC. My guess is Nogueira won’t have too much trouble doing that again. After that, who challenges Big Nog for the title? During the Joe Rogan session after the fight, Nogueira stated that he indeed wants Randy Couture (who doesn’t?) to come back and face him. Well that’s just great, but it’s not happening. Nor will our old friend Fedor Emelianenko be stepping into the octagon any time soon either. Though Andrei Arlovski might have a decent chance at beating Nogueira, his last fight in the organization is with someone not nearly as talented as Minotauro.
There is also the possibility that if Frank Mir manages to keep winning, he will get a shot at reclaiming the heavy-weight title and face Nogueira some time in the future. But to make a long story short, I don’t see that match going Mir’s way at all. Mir’s jiu jitsu is fierce, but Nogueira’s is even better, and he is just an overall better fighter. Then there’s Tim Sylvia. A rematch with Nogueira could just as easily go in Sylvia’s favor the second time around, but it will be a while before that match can happen again. As I stated previously fresh blood is important, the organization needs to shake things up and keep old flames like Sylvia on the back burner for just a little while.
Since the names mentioned above are probably the only few out there capable of defeating Nogueira, odds are the Brazilian will reign over the UFC heavy-weight throne for a long, long time. Many of you might be thinking “couldn’t Lesnar defeat Nogueira or Sylvia if given the chance?” With hard training, it is entirely possible. But like I said it should be a little while before Lesnar gets a shot at the big players in the HW division, so lets save that for another time when it’s at least within our sights.
The Problem With Lesnar
The problem with Brock Lesnar is that he needs to face decent competition to work his way up and become a better fighter. Why is this a problem? Because the HW division seems to only have two types of fighters: The really good, and the really bad. Brock could easily demolish the average MMA heavy-weight on size and strength alone, but he should not be facing champion level competition yet either. So who is in between for Brock Lesnar to fight?
There are a few guys out there that might pose a half decent threat to the monster-sized UFC newcomer, but no one that can definitely take him apart. That is why it’s almost probable for Lesnar to face Tim Sylvia in the not too distant future, with the winner of that fight earning a subsequent title shot. Crazy as it sounds, it is absolutely possible given the state of the HW division. With just a hand full of fighters at the top of the division, there are only so many people to fight before you start recycling opponents. This works in Lesnar’s favor, but nonetheless makes it difficult for him to find challengers which will put him to the test in the meantime.
Quick Thoughts On Other Fights:
What happened to Jeremy Horn? This is the guy who has beaten Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin, David Loiseau, Dean Lister, the list goes on, and he looked like an out of shape sloppy mess against Nate Marquardt. Now Marquardt is good, and he looked even better against Horn. But Horn seemed to have made that fight pretty easy for Nate. Jeremy Horn has fought at heavy and light-heavyweight in the past, and he looked much more in shape then than he did at 185lbs. Not that a fighter needs to be movie star ripped, but the guy had the most unimpressive physique I’ve ever seen from a middleweight. I really hope Jeremy Horn can come back and show us the Jeremy Horn that once was. If Horn really cannot perform on the level he needs to succeed in MMA, I suggest he retire before he starts fighting back alley matches in RioHeroes.
Ricardo Almeida is a world class grappler, we know that, and we got a nice demonstration on Saturday night. The thing is this doesn’t tell us a heck of a lot since the guy he fought had no business being in the cage with him. Props to Rob Yundt for filling in on short notice and pulling off that desperate move where he flipped over to break the choke, but the guy was no match for Ricardo Almeida. I’d like to see Almeida rematch Nate Marquardt after Marquardt’s big win over Jeremy Horn. That rematch would actually tell us a great deal about where these fighters look to stand in the middleweight landscape.
I don’t know much about Tim Boetsch other than his previous IFL appearance where he lost to Vladimir Matyushenko, but they guy seems to go for the knock out and that is what the fans like to see. I didn’t expect much from Tim Boetsch or David Heath going into the fight, but after watching Boetsch throw Heath around the way he did, I’m sold on watching him fight again in the UFC.
From an eager fans perspective this fight kind of bored me. I kept waiting for one of those big punches both guys were throwing to bring one down to the canvas, but it never happened. I will give credit to those lightweights you could tell they didn’t want the fight to have to go to a decision, but neither could finish and it just looked like it could have gone on all day. I think if Griffin picked his shots and combinations a little more carefully he might have been able score that K.O., but I’m sure he will watch the tapes and figure it out himself.
Wow. I knew Chris Lytle was pretty good but I didn’t know he was that good. Maybe Kyle Bradley just had an off night? Or maybe Bradley just isn’t that great. Either way Chris Lytle looked like a beast, very impressive.
I heard this fight was quite the war but I didn’t get to see it televised so I have no idea. I do like Marvin Eastman and would really like to catch this bout online somewhere, but I have yet to find a video of it on the web. Anyone have a link?