The heavyweight stakes couldn't have been higher last night (May 26, 2012) with the title on the line as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) champion Junior dos Santos looked to defend his Heavyweight title against Frank Mir.
Dos Santos possessed some of the most dangerous boxing in the division, while Mir was capable of finishing nearly anyone with his bone-breaking submissions. With both men being so lethal, someone had to go, and unfortunately for Frank Mir, he would be that man.
So what helped dos Santos successfully defend his championship? And what happens next for both elite big-men?
Follow me after the jump for our Junior dos Santos vs. Frank Mir UFC 146 post-fight review and analysis.
Frank Mir didn't waste any time coming out of the gate early, diving for a single leg takedown attempt and dropping to the ground, pulling guard, but could not drag dos Santos on top of him. Instead, the champion wiggled free and forced Mir to get back to his feet and trade strikes.
While standing, dos Santos played a game of show and tell, repeatedly lunging in and connecting with a quick lead left hook and then darting back out before Mir could counter. This use of footwork made it very difficult for Mir to pinpoint dos Santos' position and land any heavy punches or even think about takedown atttempts.
Dos Santos continued his game of "in and out" leaping inside with a single strike to the head or body, mixing things up and then immediately heading out again.
With 18 seconds left in the round, the champion caught Mir with a nice short right hand which staggered the submission fighter. Smelling blood, "Cigano" pressed forward and opened up with a huge flurry of strikes along the fence but Mir covered up and dove at a leg to try and survive the onslaught. Dos Santos hopped out of danger and played it safe until the horn.
As the second round opened up, dos Santos looked extremely confident in his striking, having found a terrific groove. He dropped Mir 50 seconds in, but didn't feel he was hurt enough to follow him to the ground and finish him.
The finish would come soon enough from another slick right hand which sent the former champ tumbling to the canvas three minutes into the round. This time, "Cigano" swarmed the former two-time champ, landing some ground and pound and then finishing Mir off with a big right hand as he rolled around in a daze.
For Frank Mir, I understand that he didn't want to constantly be working for takedowns so as to lull dos Santos into a false sense of security, but only attempting one legitimate takedown in the beginning of the fight was not a very good idea. There was no way he was going to win a kickboxing match against the champion, so it was frustrating to watch him just get beat down like that, eating big shots and hardly landing any offense in return. If he wasn't going to try to put dos Santos down, he could have at least clinched with him, taking away "Cigano's" boxing and potentially setting up some of his hip tosses or something. Anything would have been better than standing in the pocket and trading with dos Santos until he was hurt for the third time and finished.
There are heavy rumblings that Brock Lesnar could come back and if so, a trilogy fight against Mir would be incredible. Both men would be coming off losses against some of the best in the world and that could be a really big money fight. If that falls through, other options include the upcoming Fabricio Werdum vs. Mike Russow loser or perhaps fellow main card loser Antonio Silva.
For Junior dos Santos, that was a brilliant piece of work by the champion. He never allowed Mir to get comfortable, constantly darting in and out and landing with precision. He refused to play any of Mir's game, forcing the former champ to get back to his feet when he knocked him down simply because he didn't think he was hurt enough yet. When he landed with power, he'd follow up like with his flurry at the end of the first round or his finishing sequence where he put Mir away in the second. This was exactly the type of performance many expected to see from him and he delivered. His terrific footwork never gave Mir an opportunity to counter as he was simply too fast for him and he utilized terrific angles to confuse the Las Vegas native, which kept him from having to fend off hardly any takedowns or clinch attempts.
Without a doubt, the most likely opponent for dos Santos will be a rematch against Cain Velasquez. Velasquez looked like a completely different fighter last night, quickly putting Antonio Silva on the ground and then just violently brutalizing him with elbows and punches to paint the canvas red with blood. That was a completely different Velasquez than the injured shell of a man that "Cigano" knocked out to win the belt. It will be very interesting to see how the rematch goes if both enter the fight at or close to 100 percent.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Were you dazzled by "Cigano's" terrific striking display? Do you expect anything different the next time around in a rematch against Velasquez? Would you be interested in Lesnar-Mir 3?