A week after the Strikeforce World Heavyweight Grand Prix rocked the world with a stellar night of MMA action, the UFC heavyweights will step into the spotlight to show why they are the best in the world. With an all-heavyweight main card, UFC 146 will take the stage at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. “Big” Lavar Johnson (17-5) will return to action just three weeks after his winning sophomore effort in the UFC to face “Skyscraper” Stefan Struve (23-5) in the opening bout. Following that, undefeated prospect Stipe Miocic (8-0) will go toe to toe with unbeaten journeyman Shane Del Rosario (11-0) and “Big Country” Roy Nelson (16-7) will face heavy-handed “Pee Wee” Dave Herman (21-3). The co-main will feature “Bigfoot” Antonio Silva’s (16-3) UFC debut against former champ Cain Velasquez (9-1) and the main event will see Frank Mir (16-5) attempt to secure his third UFC heavyweight title by defeating the current champ, dangerous Brazilian boxing machine “Cigano” Junior Dos Santos (14-1).
At First Glance: The match is one not unfamiliar to fans: Frank Mir versus the current super hyped heavyweight champion. He has faced many of the top fighters in the heavyweight division and has more UFC wins than any other heavyweight in history. He has also faced and defeated former UFC or PRIDE heavyweight champions five times over the course of his career and more often than not as a heavy underdog. Despite the cliché connotations of the proclamation, this time it will be the stiffest test of Mir’s career. Junior Dos Santos has yet to even be threatened as a heavyweight and in his 8-0 UFC bid has handily defeated three former UFC/PRIDE champions and six top ten heavyweights. He also has a level of striking skill that Mir has yet to see in his career. The match is the ultimate evolution of the Striker vs. Grappler match-up, at least as far as the heavyweight division is concerned.
In Depth: A long time has passed since Frank Mir could be dismissed by any fighter with enough ground skill to keep him standing and a pair of heavy hands. He has recently finished two of the division’s most respected kickboxers on the feet in addition to finishing “Minotauro” Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (33-7) for the first time in his career, a feat Mir has accomplished twice, once standing and once on the mat. Dos Santos’ striking is, however, in an entirely different league than that of any of Mir’s previous opponents. Normally, good boxing can be dismantled by decent kickboxing. Unfortunately for Mir, his striking comes from a very solid boxing skill set and his kicks are an afterthought at best. If he stands with Dos Santos, he will lose. Where Mir has Dos Santos beat is on the mat. Mir has proven time and time again that he is one of the most dangerous submission artists in the world and he is absolutely ruthless with his attacks. He doesn’t lock in a hold to force a tap, he breaks whatever he gets his hands on. Dos Santos hasn’t lost in five years, but that loss was via submission and he hasn’t been forced to the mat since then. For Mir, this fight is the story of his career, it’s his fifth UFC title fight. For Dos Santos, it’s the biggest test of his weaknesses since coming to the UFC because Mir has the ground skills to win the fight and the stand-up skills to survive it.
Wild Card: The almost always forgotten aspect of the NAGA Absolute Division Submission Grappling Champion’s repertoire is his freestyle wrestling. Mir wrestled only two years in high school, going 44-1 in his senior year as state champion, but it has often been his above average takedown abilities that have made him so dangerous as a submission fighter. From day one, Mir’s goal in studying wrestling wasn’t to be a wrestler but to integrate it into his already well-developed BJJ game. Against Mir, ”Cigano” will face his first opponent who has spent his entire life learning how to wrestle purely for submissions and also has the athleticism and boxing skills to hang with him standing. Mir also is an incredibly strategic fighter and has no doubt analyzed every mistake that has been made by his previous grappling minded opponents.
The Verdict: Frank Mir is 2-0 against the Team Nogueira and that isn’t likely to change. To retain his belt, Dos Santos needs to end the fight on the feet very quickly. Mir, though he has been stopped, has never been easy to finish and his takedown and submission abilities are like a minefield for the champion. One wrong step and he leaves the cage with no belt and a missing limb. Mir via Technical Submission (Heel Hook), Round 1