Apocalypse Now, as WWE Meets UFC

Apocalypse Now

Jan 31, 2008
Brock Lesnar (Pictures) is headlining a UFC card.

No, MMA has not turned into Bizarro world, and as far as I know, the end is not nigh. However, the former WWE poster boy and questionable tattoo connoisseur is making his UFC debut against Frank Mir (Pictures) in a match that elicits as much head scratching as headshaking.

Don't give up just yet, though. This card delivers the goods with an interim title bout between PRIDE refugee Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira and the MMA community's favorite punching bag, Tim Sylvia (Pictures).

Throw in the long-awaited return of Ricardo Almeida (Pictures) as well as the ongoing Tyson Griffin "Fight of the Year" tour, and you've got what shapes up to be a solid night of fistic entertainment.

Besides, don't tell me you don't want to see the look on Lesnar's face when he realizes that the running lariat isn't viable in MMA.

Tim Sylvia (Pictures) vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Pictures)

For those who spend their nights sitting in a corner, mumbling about UFC 68 while draped in Xtreme Couture gear, the bout between Tim Sylvia (Pictures) and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Pictures) is for the interim heavyweight title.

Those of you who have been following the messy divorce between Randy Couture (Pictures) and the UFC know full well that the interim champion won't have to deal with that annoying modifier for too long.

Interim or not, this may be the last chance Nogueira (30-4-1, 1 NC) gets to wear heavyweight gold. The original PRIDE heavyweight champion, Nogueira would eventually lose the title to Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures) and spend the rest of his time in Japan playing the Jan to Fedor's Marcia.

The impending collapse of Japan's MMA monolith necessitated Nogueira's exodus to the UFC, and because certain questions require repeated answers, he took on Heath Herring (Pictures) for a third time in his UFC debut. Having already beaten Herring twice over, he seemed to have the imposing Texan figured out until one of Herring's high kicks found the mark and left Nogueira on the verge of joining the growing list of PRIDE castaways who flopped stateside.

A bit of ill-advised "strategy" by Herring was all the durable Brazilian needed to weather the storm, however, as Nogueira notched a unanimous decision. Rebounding from adversity has long been the Brazilian's strong suit, and it is one of the only things he has in common with the UFC's Steve Urkel.

Almost universally despised by hardcore and casual fans alike, Sylvia (24-3) might as well walk around wearing suspenders and impossibly high-riding slacks to complete the image he has been tagged with. While he has admitted that he would love for the fans to love him back, the success the mammoth Maine native has found inside the Octagon is consolation plenty.

Two times the UFC's heavyweight champion, Sylvia has consistently beaten the odds while compiling an impressive 11-3 record inside the Octagon. The odds have occasionally gone against Sylvia, though, and he has suffered two improbable upset losses to Frank Mir (Pictures) and Randy Couture (Pictures).

Entering this fight in the familiar position of betting underdog, Sylvia can become the UFC's first three-time heavyweight champ by adding a third upset win to his title fight résumé. Doing so will mean neutralizing one of the division's most offensively versatile fighters.

Always known for his Brazilian jiu-jitsu acumen, Nogueira has added burgeoning boxing skills to his repertoire and become a threat anywhere a fight goes. This is a true concern for Sylvia, who rarely makes good use of his long frame and typically does his best work in close range.

Standing within Nogueira's striking range does not bode well for the Miletich-trained fighter. In doing so, Sylvia allows Nogueira the opportunity to land effectively and also makes the possibility of a fight-changing takedown quite real.

Obviously, Nogueira is far from Randy Couture (Pictures) in the wrestling department. However, he has shown a propensity for scoring takedowns when he needs them most, and for all of Sylvia's size, he remains unsure of how to use that size to his advantage.

Incapable of keeping Nogueira at bay on the feet and hopelessly overmatched on the ground, this fight will be Sylvia's Waterloo, as he finds himself in a lose-lose situation. Watch for Nogueira to score one of his trademark miracle takedowns early in the third round and then quickly seal the deal with an armbar.

Frank Mir (Pictures) vs. Brock Lesnar (Pictures)

Well, it finally happened. All you fans out there who jokingly wondered aloud how Hulk Hogan would do against Royce Gracie (Pictures) have been granted your wish in the form of former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir (Pictures) taking on collegiate wrestling standout turned WWE ballerina turned mixed martial artist Brock Lesnar (Pictures).

Having already lorded over the world of tights and singlets, Lesnar (1-0) has turned his focus to MMA because the idea of hurting people for money in the UFC seemed more appealing than pretending to hurt people for money in the WWE.

Motivation aside, Lesnar does at least have the cache of being a legitimate amateur wrestler at the collegiate level. An All-American at both the D-1 and junior college level, Lesnar accumulated a 106-5 record in four years of competition and finished his career by winning the D-1 heavyweight division.

That was seven long years ago, however. Lesnar has spent most of his time since then wearing uncomfortably tight underoos and making a memorably disastrous run at the NFL.

Now that any aspirations of success on the gridiron and inside the squared circle are firmly behind him, Lesnar has spent most of the last two years training MMA and actually managed a successful fistic debut against Min Soo Kim (Pictures). Emboldened by his success, Lesnar demanded a legitimate opponent for his UFC debut, seemingly unaware that the quality of his pre-fight promos would have no bearing on the outcome of the fight.

What will have a bearing on the outcome is Mir (10-3) and how much time the Las Vegan has spent working the door at the Spearmint Rhino gentleman's club instead of training for his latest Octagon foray.

Just how well prepared Mir enters this bout is a question that will be on everyone's mind given his at times less than enthusiastic approach to training. Throw in Mir's 2004 motorcycle crash from which he has only just now fully recovered, and the former UFC heavyweight champion could enter this fight with just as many question marks as the former WWE heavyweight champion.

The question that has been answered about Mir is that he can succeed in MMA. Lesnar can laugh off the fact that Mir treated Tim Sylvia (Pictures)'s radius like a wishbone all he likes, but as a converted wrestler in MMA, taking on Mir this early in the game is like trying to get The Smiths back together after listening to "Meat Is Murder" a few times.

Valor isn't a necessity at this point in Lesnar's career, and it will cost him dearly against the sort of fighter designed to make quick work of converted wrestlers. Don't make the mistake of assuming Lesnar has the striking to overwhelm Mir on the feet or the submission defense to survive any attempts at ground-and-pound.

Training with Greg Nelson in Minneapolis, Minn., is certainly a great start, but having some experience comes in handy every so often. Taking on one of the heavyweight division's better grapplers is just that kind of situation.

In a perfect world, Lesnar comes out to an excessive pyrotechnics display, hits a modified power bomb on Mir before getting trapped in a triangle choke that he valiantly struggles against before passing out. The world may not be perfect, but Lesnar will walk away from this fight with his first professional loss.

Here's hoping Lesnar takes some of his show money and gets something done about that chest tattoo. I mean, I can't be the only one who snickered when Lesnar claimed it was a sword.
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