Say this for the Ultimate Fighting Championship: thanks to clever marketing and the well-produced “Primetime” series, it almost seems like Junior Santos-Frank Mir was the heavyweight title tilt the promotion always wanted. Of course, we all know better. However, just because Alistair Overeem is out of the picture for now does not mean UFC 146 is not worth watching.
Mir was the first man to knock out and submit dos Santos’ mentor, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, adding a revenge angle to the proceedings. Then there is the lack of respect Mir has received since being named the main-event replacement for Overeem; if the former heavyweight king is not at least a little bit motivated by all the doubters, then he is not human. At any rate, it figures to be a good test of dos Santos’ restraint, because an over exuberant pursuit of the finish against an accomplished grappler like Mir could spell doom for the Brazilian.
After more than a little reshuffling, the rest of the all-heavyweight main card managed to survive Overeem’s transgressions. Those with short attention spans take note: the odds of this being a long, drawn out pay-per-view are slim and none.
Here is a closer look at UFC 146 “Dos Santos vs. Mir,” with analysis and picks:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC 146 "Dos Santos vs. Mir" Free Fan Pick’Em
UFC Heavyweight Championship
Junior dos Santos (14-1, 8-0 UFC) vs. Frank Mir (16-5, 14-5 UFC)
The Matchup: On paper, this appears to be a stylistic nightmare for Mir, who has shown a tendency to get rocked by the division’s heavy hitters during his UFC career. In terms of knockout proficiency, dos Santos is about as good as it gets at heavyweight; only Roy Nelson and Shane Carwin have managed to go the distance with the heavy-handed Brazilian, and they both absorbed plenty of punishment for their efforts. Most recently, the durable Cain Velasquez fell victim to a brutal overhand right and follow-up punches from dos Santos at UFC on Fox 1 in November, relinquishing his belt in just 64 seconds.
As daunting as it may be to face an opponent who has stopped 11 of his 14 victims inside of a round, Mir has a wealth of big-fight experience upon which to draw. Long before “Cigano” was crushing foes in the Octagon with his lead uppercut, Mir was submitting Tim Sylvia to capture the heavyweight championship at UFC 48. The sport has evolved quite a bit since 2004, but Mir’s one significant advantage in this fight remains the same: his submission game.
Mir became the first person to submit Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 140 with a gruesome kimura, and he was able to execute the finish thanks to his uncanny composure. “Minotauro” had wobbled the Las Vegas resident on the feet and was looking to finish with a flurry of strikes and a choke on the mat. Somehow, Mir maintained his senses enough to scramble out of danger and lock in the fight-ending maneuver. This was not a case of a jiu-jitsu practitioner playing possum, either; Mir was legitimately dazed. His ability to maintain his faculties against dos Santos is key to his survival, because it is only a matter of time before the champion puts his chin to the test.
Dos Santos has quick hands and understands how to use angles to evade the strikes of his opposition. He is fluid and mobile on the outside, judiciously using his jab until the right moment arrives to collapse the pocket. When the time comes, both his uppercut and counter left hook are game-changers. Mir’s standup has improved over the years, but he is nowhere near “Cigano’s” league in the striking department.
Mir will have to be creative in figuring out ways to close the distance against dos Santos, using well-timed combinations to set up takedowns. In eight Octagon appearances, only Carwin and Gabriel Gonzaga have been able to get the Team Nogueira pupil to the ground, and both did so with minimal results. Still, it is worth the risk, if only to attempt to make the champion uncomfortable. Mir can also attempt to drain dos Santos’ cardio in tie-ups, as long as he is active from this position. Resting against the fence will only result in Mir eating knees and uppercuts from the Brazilian. Instead, Mir should look to work for an outside trip, where he can attempt to implement his vaunted ground game.
A more plausible scenario has Mir getting dropped and dos Santos following into guard. It is as good a chance for an upset as Mir has, because his guard is excellent and he has an ability to capitalize on the smallest of openings. If dos Santos dives in carelessly to finish the fight, Mir will have his moment.
The Pick: Dos Santos learned from watching his mentor succumb to the resourceful Mir, so do not expect a breakdown in strategy from the champion. “Cigano” will pick apart Mir on the outside early, stuff takedowns and eventually land the power shots for which he is known. There will be no temporary lapse in judgment, as dos Santos finishes the fight with strikes in round two.
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