UFC 81: Breaking Point Preview 101
By MMAFURY.TV OWNER / MMANEWS.COM CORRESPONDANT
“Professor Fight” J.C. Weyand
Holy tornado! It’s a formal column from Professor Fight.
After a not so short break in writing actual editorials, I couldn’t resist getting back on the horse for UFC 81: Wrestlemania…I mean Breaking Point. This event features the long awaited UFC Debut of former WWE Superstar Brock Lesnar, as he takes on former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir. Also on the card is an interim heavyweight title fight between Tim Sylvia and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and an incredibly interesting Middleweight fight between Jeremy Horn and Nate “The Great” Marquardt. In this column I’ll take an in-depth look at each of the main card fights and break down the keys to each match-up. For those who listen to Professor Fight’s segment on KZZK’s Grizz Mornings, you now get to the real meat and potatoes of UFC 81…unless you don’t like meat or potatoes. In that case, you’re getting to the salad of UFC 81…weenie.
Ricardo Almeida vs. Rob Yunt
The first of the main card features the Mixed Martial Arts return of sensational middleweight fighter Ricardo Almeida, as he takes on the undefeated Rob Yunt. What? I said Yunt. Puns aside, this is a very exciting fight for longtime MMA fans, because this if Ricardo Almeida’s first fight since May of 2004 and his first UFC fight since 2002. For those who don’t know who Almeida is, he holds victories over some of the top 185 lb. fighters in of MMA. After a sub par stint in the UFC, Almeida went over to Japan fighting in Pancrase and PRIDE. While he was in Japan he went on a six fight win streak defeating the likes of Nate Marquardt, Kazuo Misaki, and Ryo Chonan. He has not fought since, but will attempt to make his triumphant return at UFC 81, but defeating the 7-0 Rob Yunt. Although Almeida has had considerable time away from the Cage, I still think he has to be favored in the fight. Almeida has unbelievably good BJJ, so expect him to try to get this fight to the ground. If he does, it will probably be over. Hopefully Ricardo comes into this fight in top notch condition and presses for the submission. He’s had a tendency to try to control fights before and let them go to decision. Regardless of the outcome, it will be a treat to see the return of one of the premier fighters at 185 lbs.
Jeremy Horn vs. Nate Marquardt
Holy Mother of Pearl — I freakin’ love this fight. Very rarely do I get this excited about a non title middleweight fight, but this really is a dream fight. Even though he lost to Anderson Silva, Nate Marquardt is still one of the top middleweight fighters in the world. He has still won 6 out of his last 7 fights, and most of those fights were against pretty good competition. He is an amazing grappler and former King of Pancrase. On the flip side, Jeremy Horn is a true MMA legend, who’s returning to the UFC after defeating Chael Sonnen in his last appearance. He’s pretty much done everything there is to do in MMA, except winning a UFC title. He has over 75 wins as a professional mixed martial artist, If that’s not impressive enough, the fact that a good portion of his fights were against top notch talent is just jaw dropping. He’s been in the cage (or ring) with Dan Severn, Travis Fulton, Frank Shamrock, Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin, Randy Couture, Minotauro Nogueira, Ricardo Arona, Eugene Jackson, Akira Shoji, Gilbert Yvel, Babalu Sobral, Dean Lister, David Loiseau, Josh Burkman, Anderson Silva, and Matt Lindland. Are you freaking kidding me? I think I may have sprained my wrist just typing that list out. Horn’s ground game is phenomenal. He probably has the most well rounded ground game of anyone in MMA. He isn’t a pure wrestling grappler, and he isn’t a pure BJJ grappler. He has a unique style of fighting that combines aspects of wrestling, BJJ, and striking, all of which are based in Miletich Fighting Systems.
His “Hornjitsu” style of fighting will be interesting match-up to Nate Marquardt’s controlling style of wrestling based grappling. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if this fight immediately went to the ground or if both fighters wanted to keep it standing. Both fighters are coming off tough losses — Marquardt to Silva, Horn to Matt Lindland and Jorge Santiago — so confidence may play a part in this fight. Sometimes when a fighter endures a devastating loss it ruins him, but sometimes it makes him come back hungrier.
Although I like the match-up for Horn, I honestly have to go with Marquardt in this fight. Jeremy just hasn’t looked good in his last 3 fights, and I think Marquardt is going to be a lot stronger than him. On the same token, there’s no way Horn will be able to submit Marquardt in a pure grappling match. The X-Factor here is the striking game. I believe that Horn is better on his feet than Marquardt, so if he can avoid the takedown he may be able to get a knockout or win a decision.
As much as I like both fighters, I’m going to be rooting for Jeremy Horn. However, I’d put my money on Marquardt to win. With his strength and wrestling ability, he should be able to put Horn on his back and control the fight.
Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir
This fight is interesting for about 100 different reasons, and honestly (as much as I hate to admit it), I’m marking out a little bit to see this fight. Call me Kazushi, but love a good freak show fight, and this tops the charts in terms of crazy assed match-ups. It already has the ridiculous hype of a pro wrestling match, and I’m sure that come fight time it will be as over the top as Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior.
Some people put Brock Lesnar is the same category as many pro wrestlers like Hulk Hogan or Triple H — overblown, roid raged soap opera actors with little to no real combat skill. Whereas this may be true with many pro wrestlers, with Lesnar, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Before signing with the World Wrestling Federation (it has since changed its initials from WWF to WWE), Brock Lesnar was an absolutely dominant amateur wrestler in high school, junior college, and then at the University of Minnesota. As a Golden Gopher, Lesnar won the 2000 NCAA Heavyweight Championship after finishing 2nd in the nation in 1999. When he graduated he was a two-time NJCAA All-American, two-time NCAA All-American, two-time Big Ten Champion, and the 2000 NCAA heavyweight champion with a record of 106-5 overall in four years of college.
Although Lesnar’s amateur credentials are stellar, not all amateur wrestlers have transitioned well to MMA – Kevin Jordan anyone? The thing that sets him apart is his freakish size, strength, and athleticism. He’s so big; he actually cuts weight to make the 265 weight limit. The scary thing about Lesnar’s potential, is that even though he’s probably the largest (overall girth) fighter in the UFC, he’s probably the most athletic fighter as well. Right now Lesnar may have the best physical tools of any fighter in the heavyweight division.
Yes, Lesnar is a freakish athlete…Yeah but. Just because you’re a great athlete doesn’t make you a great fighter. LaDainian Tomlinson might be the best athlete on the planet, but I’d bet every penny I had that Elvis Sinosic would beat the shit out him if the ever fought. Granted Lesnar’s sport lends itself better to real combat situations, wrestling is very different from Mixed Martial Arts. And regardless of what some people may think, Frank Mir is a dangerous opponent for anyone — especially an MMA Gnoob
For anyone who started watching the UFC Post TUF 1, Frank Mir is kind of an afterthought. After his motorcycle wreck he’s been a shell of his former self. His hips are not nearly as flexible as they used to be and his conditioning is worse than ever. We need to remember, though, that pre-wreck, Frank Mir had probably the most fluid and aggressive style of BJJ in all of MMA outside of B.J. Penn. There are many aspects of his ground game that he still possesses, despite his physical limitations.
Those skills are the best chance Mir has to win this fight, because technically speaking; he is a nightmare match-up for Brock Lesnar. There’s really no position where Lesnar has the advantage. I’d say that Mir definitely has the advantage in the stand-up department, and if Lesnar gets the takedown, he’s in Frank Mir’s guard — the place where Mir is at his best. Even though Lesnar is an accomplished wrestler he’s skill extremely new to the submission game, and it only takes one mistake for Mir to finish the fight off his back. Remember, even Randy Couture was caught in several submissions early in his career.
The other X-Factor in this fight is strength and conditioning — an area Lesnar should have a huge advantage in. I think Mir can we, but if he comes into this fight as out of shape as he’s been in his last few fights, he doesn’t have a chance. Lesnar will push the pace, and eventually be able to power through Mir’s guard and pummel him into oblivion.
It’s usual to see a “freak show” fight such as this, be so beneficial to both fighters. If Lesnar wins, it gives him instant credibility by defeating a former champion. If Mir wins, it gives him a high profile PPV victory to help put his career back on track. For fear of Vince McMahon claiming that WWE Wrestlers are tougher than Mixed Martial Artists, I’ll be rooting for Frank Mir in this one. Honestly though, I just think Lesnar is going too big, too strong, and too well conditioned for Mir to handle.
Overconfidence is a scary thing, though. Lesnar said in his promo video, “So he broke Tim Sylvia’s arm. Who cares?”
I don’t know who cares, but I know who should care: You Brock or he’ll break your arm too!
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Tim Sylvia
Since I’m not really counting Quentin “Pridepage” Jackson vs. Dan Henderson as a true UFC vs. PRIDE match-up, this is actually the first of that genre of major consequence. To go back to 2005, I actually called for this fight to happen. When everyone (well maybe not everyone, but a whole lot of people) were dropping Tim Sylvia out of the Top 10, this was a rumored fight on an upcoming UFC PPV. After thinking about their styles, I came to the conclusion then, and stand by it now, that Tim Sylvia would beat Minotauro if they ever fought. But before we go into that lets take a quick check at the fighters’ resumes.
Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira (whoa – that is definitely the last time I write his whole name) is one of the most decorated fighters in all of mixed martial arts. He has been a Pride Heavyweight champion and has consistently been ranked either the #1 or #2 fighter in world since 2001. The guy is an absolute machine on the ground. Nobody (other than B.J. Penn) bas translated Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to MMA better than Nogueira. In 35 fights he’s only been beaten by 3 men, and 2 of those losses are avenged. He’s beaten Mirko CroCop, Fabricio Werdum, Sergei Kharitonov, Mark Coleman, Heath Herring, Josh Barnett, and every other major fighter from PRIDE except for Fedor Emelianenko. Only Fedor and maybe Matt Hughes have a better MMA Resume than Minotauro.
Tim Sylvia, on the other hand has been around in the title picture for the past few years, and just won’t go away. In his first title shot, he shocked the world by beating Ricco Rodriguez, knocked out Gan McGee, then tested positive for steroids. In his next fight Frank Mir shattered his arm, but Frank Mir went down with injury. He fought Andrei Arlovski for the Interim Title because there really wasn’t another option and was submitted by him as well. Due to a lack of challengers Sylvia received a rematch against Arlovski and defied odds by TKOing “The Pitbull.” After defending his belt against Arlovski and Jeff Monson in two boring Jab-fests, he was totally controlled and defeated by Randy Couture. In another strike of luck for Sylvia, Couture resigned, so Sylvia was the next logical opponent to face Nogueira for the Interim Heavyweight Title.
Any smart fan would say that Nogueira is going to win this fight. I would go as far to say that judging by almost every criterion Nogueira is a better fighter, but Tim Sylvia is just a stylistic nightmare for Minotauro. Nogueira has never had great takedowns and Tim Sylvia is 265 lbs. worth of takedown defense. Tim also has a great jab (or boring jab, whichever you prefer) that he uses to keep his opponents at bay. He also has really good conditioning, so he won’t just gas and give up the takedown.
To make matters worse for Nogueira, if he tries to pull guard as he did so many times in PRIDE, the UFC judges will award position control to Sylvia, because he’s on top. It doesn’t matter if Nogueira throws 50 submissions from the bottom. If he doesn’t catch Big Tim, he will lose the decision.
Like I said before, Tim Sylvia is definitely the underdog in this fight. Nogueira should win, but as the saying goes, “Styles make fights,” and this stylistic match-up is not a match-up made in heaven for Antonio Minotauro Nogueira.
All and all, this has shaped to be a pretty solid card. All three of the main fights are extremely intriguing match-ups and could honestly go either way. I’ve had a blast writing this column and hope you’ve enjoyed reading it — and if you didn’t enjoy it, hopefully it made you a little less dumb. I appreciate any feedback you have, whether it be good, bad, or ugly; so be sure to send me an email with all your thoughts about the PPV/Editorial and any questions relating to the world of MMA.
Most importantly, enjoy the PPV and have a great Super Bowl Weekend!
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