Saturday, February 2, 2008

Fact Beats Fiction

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At the latest hyped UFC card--UFC 81, fact once again proved to be more potent than fiction as Frank Mir, the former heavyweight champion, played the script to a tee--maybe a bit too fast--as he took a few frightful ground and pound moments from former WWE Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar before submitting the wrestling behemoth.

Before everyone says "I told you so," this was truly one of those fights that need to be looked at from an optimistic perspective rather than a pessimistic one. Can you imagine a former champion in any other athletic venture fighting the heavyweight boxing champion of the world in only his second fight? I have a hard time believing any sanctioning body giving the fight a pass if it meant risking permanent cranial damage against the likes of Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield or Lennox Lewis.

Though precocious and a bit foolhardy, Lesnar must be given as much credit as criticism for risking his mystique so quickly against a proven fighter, and a former champion at that.

Lesnar, who seemed a bit perturbed during the ring walk, let his emotions fly in the form of a 265-lb+ oncoming wrecking ball. Mir, whose confidence is hard to deter, soon found himself in some uncomfortable moments as Lesnar dropped his lumber-like arms over Mir's head. He was unjustly deducted a point for hitting a head turning Mir behind the head.

It didn't matter because moments later Mir was down again and Lesnar proceeded to pummel him at will. Mir, who must have been wondering why all his previous submission attempts were proving impotent, changed his strategy away from Lesnar's massive arms and shifted toward Lesnar's massive legs. This would prove to be Lesnar's waterloo because Mir was no pro wrestling actor. He is a submission specialist and Lesnar had no choice but to tap after leg locking Lesnar's tree trunk legs in a kneebar.

Both fighters credited each other with pushing each other. Lesnar, who was booed before beginning his interview with Joe Rogan, showed a smile reminiscent of a wrestling heel about to make the crowd hate him even more. But this is not scripted and Lesnar showed true class and left to a shower of applause. For Mir it has been a long, cracked road but he is back and on the hunt to his former throne.

Former Champion Keeps His PRIDE

As if the habit of following the script was in full effect, Tim Sylvia and Antonio Minotauro Nogueira fought with strategy and passion for two and half rounds before they came to the last page.

Sylvia, the former UFC Heavyweight Champion, started strongly against Nogueira, the former PRIDE FC Heavyweight Champion. He kept the fight on his feet for most of the entire round and even dropped Nogueira on his back with one of his trademark straight-from-the-elbow right hands. Sylvia proved he was the dominant fighter as long as the fight was kept standing. Nogueira, however, proved once again that he is one of the most resilient fighters ever to enter an MMA fight. But toward the very end of the first round Nogueira gave Sylvia, as well as the crowd, an ominous sign of what he has always been capable of in every fight.

Though Nogueira once again displayed his Wolverine-like recuperative powers (see his battles against Bob Sapp, Fedor Emelianenko, and Mirko Cro Cop Filipovic) showed improvement in the second round he still looked tired and all of his takedown abilities were negated by Sylvia's takedown defense. Score another close on for Sylvia. But as the third round was nearly two minutes into a seemingly comfortable win for Sylvia, Nogueira finally was able to bring the 6'8" fighter down. Though he missed with the first leg submission attempt, he quickly got a chokehold against a quick-turning Sylvia, locked it in tight, and made the big man tap.

With the win, Nogueira wins the "interim" championship. After the fight Nogueira showed the class that has always made him a respected champion by calling out Randy "The Natural" Couture. Regardless of his post UFC 81 outcomes, "Nog's" MMA legacy is forever secured.

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