Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing out the big guns for its annual Memorial Day Weekend extravaganza, featuring an all-heavyweight main card line-up with serious title implications in the 265-pound division.
UFC 146: "Dos Santos vs. Mir" features a reworked main event that pits reigning heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos against former division titleholder Frank Mir, stepping in to replace Alistair Overeem after "Demolition Man" flunked a pre-fight drug test.
That upset the entire apple cart, but creative matchmaking (and a bunch of behemoths all competing on the same day) kept this ship afloat, starting with the co-main event that sees ex-champ Cain Velasquez taking on Strikeforce import Antonio Silva.
A couple of other familiar faces from San Jose have also resurfaced in "Sin City," as Lavar Johnson jumps back into action to tangle with mid-card marauder Stefan Struve while Shane del Rosario gets his feet wet in the land of ZUFFA opposite heralded up-and-comer Stipe Miocic.
And let's not forget about a pair of down-on-their-luck heavyweights, Roy Nelson vs. Dave Herman, also trying to keep their heads above water in the suddenly crowded (and fiercely competitive) 265-pound division.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the main card action on fight night (Sat., May 26, 2012), which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view. The latest quick updates of the live action from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada will begin to flow earlier than that around 8 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook and FX.
So, who is the baddest heavyweight on the planet? The answer comes after the jump.
Nostradumbass predicts: I gotta hand it to Frank Mir, he always finds a way to weasel himself into the heavyweight title picture. But how relevant the Las Vegas-based grappler is to the current 265-pound pecking order is directly proportionate to your view on the relevance of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Outside of breaking "Minotauro," Mir hasn't done much to impress me.
Knocking out "Cro Cop" was all well and good, but how can you put much stock in a fight called "one of the worst main events in UFC history?" He followed that up by huffing and puffing his way past the suddenly-ordinary Roy Nelson and that win over "Big Nog?" Let's not forget he was on queer street prior to snapping the Brazilian's arm.
My point is that Mir usually finds a way to win, but this is not a competitor I would consider championship material in 2012.
What's worse, he's fighting the best striker in the division. That's bad news for a guy that has a paint-by-numbers offense, which is basically the foreword to his jiu-jitsu biography. I will give him credit; however, as I don't think there's a more dangerous heavyweight in the game once things go south.
Too bad they won't.
I keep hearing about Junior's ground game, how it's never been tested and yadda yadda yadda. There is a reason it's never been tested and it's the same reason Jon Jones' ground game has never been tested -- nobody can get him to the floor without getting smashed in the process.
Gabriel Gonzaga took him down in their fight just over two years ago. Watch Cigano's hips as he pops back up like a turkey thermometer and then tell me these two will spend much time rolling around on the ground.
Maybe if every fight started in guard, things would be a little more competitive, but since they start on the feet -- a place Dos Santos rules with an iron fist -- the burden is on the challenger to overcome an avalanche of punches to maybe get things grounded.
Get the smelling salts ready.
Prediction: Dos Santos def. Mir by knockout
Nostradumbass predicts: If you take away the win over Fedor Emelianenko, the list of people Antonio Silva has beaten is, for the most part, underwhelming. The same can be said for the consistency of his performances. He spent three rounds on his feet in a pair of ugly slapfights against Andrei Arlovski (win) and Fabricio Werdum (loss).
He came back to win the "MAK" fight, but it showed, much like his technical knockout loss to Eric Pele did in 2007, that if you swing for the fences (even if your aim sucks) there's a pretty good chance you're going to connect.
Just ask Daniel Cormier.
Seriously, Silva has a huge head and while he's talented both on the feet and on the ground, he's far too slow and plodding to handle the speed of Velasquez, who is basically a taller and leaner version of Cormier. Add to that the former champion's NCAA wrestling credentials and even if "Pezao" somehow manages to get this thing south, there's no way he's keeping it there.
If Brock Lesnar wasn't strong enough to keep Velasquez down, Silva won't be either.
When the biggest (and only) knock on your career is getting torched by Junior dos Santos, because you tried to outbox "Cigano," I'd say you're doing pretty well for yourself. I don't believe there is a heavyweight in this division, besides the champ, who can neutralize Cain's perfectly-balanced offense. He can strike, he can wrestle and his cardio is unquestionably top shelf.
"Bigfoot" is getting stepped on.
Prediction: Velasquez def. Silva via technical knockout
265 lbs.: Roy Nelson (16-7) vs. Dave Herman (21-3)
Nostradumbass predicts: I'm trying to figure out what the appeal of Roy Nelson is. As a fighter, he's blatantly mediocre. Yes, he's got fantastic jiu-jitsu and a dangerous overhand right, but there's a reason he's 1-3 over his last four fights.
There's also a reason he's fighting Dave Herman.
Nelson went from promising prospect to the fat guy that gets the shit kicked out of him for three rounds -- yet praised because he has "heart." Well how about a treadmill to go with that heart? Maybe I'm being a little hard on the guy, but seriously, he got destroyed in all three of his losses.
If he doesn't want to cut to 205 pounds, that's his right, but he's taking up a valuable spot on the main card that would be better served for guys on an upward trajectory.
"Pee Wee" isn't one of them.
Herman is a huge heavyweight and came into the UFC with a lot of hype, but so far he's failed to deliver. Anyone championing his "win" over Jon Olav Einemo might want to re-watch that fight. His performance left a lot to be desired.
He followed that up with a terrible loss to "Skyscraper" Struve and right now there is nothing I've seen that convinces me he's UFC material. I'll probably give him the decision win in this fight because he's taller, which should give you an indication of how much technique I expect from these two giants after they gas this weekend in Vegas.
Prediction: Herman def. Nelson via ugly split decision
Nostradumbass predicts: I've heard a lot of people bitching about the matchmaking here and I'll be perfectly honest, I'm one of them. I don't think we need to take two undefeated prospects and match them against one another with so many other options available, which is why the UFC canceled that fight between Cain Velasquez vs. Shane Carwin back in 2009.
I would have much rather seen Shane del Rosario vs. Roy Nelson and Stipe Miocic vs. Dave Herman.
That's probably why I'm over here, warrior of the keyboard, and Joe Silva has a luxury office in "Sin City." Still, I don't have to like it. The only saving grace is that these guys can put on a show because they both have the talent to do so. Technically, I think Del Rosario is the better striker, at least cleaner, and normally I would have him winning this fight.
But not under these circumstances.
Shane-o has been out for a year following a horrific car accident that nearly ended his career. To compound the problem, it was a back injury, which is one of those demons that will forever haunt you no matter how well you've been put back together.
With an extended absence and severe injury, I just can't pick him against a guy who's competed four times (and won) during that same time period. Miocic has the momentum and he certainly has the talent. But will he finish his foe on fight night?
Tough to say.
I don't think Del Rosario is going to fold up or anything that dramatic, but we don't know what to expect from him upon his return and with so many unknowns, I have to imagine Stipe is able to do more -- and do it more often -- to convince the judges he was the better man when the smoke finally clears.
Prediction: Miocic def. Del Rosario via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: It's frustrating to watch guys like Lavar Johnson wreck fools on a regular basis, which may sound like a strange thing to say, but I hate getting all excited over a fighter who you just know is never going to make a UFC title run.
Guys who stand and trade with "Big" get their heads punched into the second row. Guys who take him down and work their grappling, go home the winner. His last two fights in Strikeforce ended by way of the tap and even Pat Barry had him in all kinds of submission trouble.
This is like remedial grappling, which is unacceptable at such a high level of MMA. So now, this has become a game of "Let's see how many guys he can stiffen before getting caught." Great for the highlight reel, not so great for the division.
Expect Struve to be the finger in the dyke (so to speak).
I know "The Skyscraper" has a decent stand-up attack and feels comfortable on his feet, but there is just no way I can believe he's going to risk the momentum of his two-fight winning streak by slugging it out with a guy who wears holsters instead of gloves.
Nobody can be that stupid.
And if you're thinking that's a little harsh, let me remind you the lanky Dutchman was KTFO by both Roy Nelson and Travis Browne. Dos Santos waxed him too, but that's not really anything to be held accountable for the way he's been eating heavyweights lately.
And oh, by the way, Struve has 15 submissions in 23 wins.
I wouldn't be surprised to see a couple of push kicks or long-distance jabs to keep some separation, but if Stefan has any sense at all, against a guy that openly admits he refuses to train jiu-jitsu, he'll get this thing to the floor post-haste and make it academic.
Prediction: Struve def. Johnson via submission
That's a wrap, folks.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC 146 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Dos Santos vs. Mir."
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.