UFC 146 showcases a main card consisting of five heavyweight bouts, the main event being the World Heavyweight Championship between Junior Dos Santos and Frank Mir. Here’s how they stack up.
Junior Dos Santos (C) vs Frank Mir
Dos Santos is the heavyweight division’s most feared striker, with ten knockouts to his name, each more devastating than the last, including the 64 second KO of former champion Cain Velasquez which won him the belt. No matter who you are, it is a bad idea to stand anywhere in which Junior’s hands can touch you, because, unless you have the granite chin of Zeus, you will end up asleep. However, what we are yet to see in the UFC is Junior’s ground game. He is a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under the Nogueira school of jiu-jitsu, although this may prove trivial against Mir who submitted the man that awarded Junior his belt.
Along with his offensive prowess, Junior is also yet to be knocked out, something almost unheard of in the heavyweight division, especially after facing legendary knockout specialists like Shane Carwin and Cro Cop. In comparison, Mir has nothing more than pillow fists.
Mir, despite having decent power of his own, prefers to finish fights with his submission skills, the one aspect of the game he has, at least on paper, an advantage over JDS. This advantage however is not something he will be able to employ easily. Junior is not a man that can be taken down without a struggle, and so Mir will have to try to get the fight to the ground using his striking.
This is where I envisage Mir will encounter a problem he will not be able to solve. Every time he has come across a fighter that can strike he has struggled, even in wins over Brock Lesnar and the recent win over Big Nog, he was rocked and wrestling not with his opponent, but with consciousness. Fortunately for himself, he was able to pounce on Lesnar’s inexperience in their first bout to lock on a knee-bar and against Nogueira his opponent made the poor choice of going for a choke rather than finishing Mir off with punches, something that he was one or two successfully landed punches away from, allowing Mir to reverse the scenario and get another submission win of his own.
In reality, Mir is going to be forced to trade with Junior at some point in this fight, and when that happens Junior is going to have more than enough power to encourage the referee to step in and stop the bout, and unfortunately for Mir, this is going to happen in the first round.
Cain Velasquez vs Antonio Silva
Cain is without a doubt the best athlete in the UFC’s heavyweight division, perhaps across all weight groups. His cardio is that of a flyweight and his wrestling is phenomenal. His striking is the weakest part of his game, and yet he has won nearly every fight by TKO, proving the phenomenal nature of Velasquez’s skill set.
Antonio Silva is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo and karate, so has elite skills in every aspect of his game. He has an excellent ground game, winning most bouts via ground-and-pound style TKOs.
Unfortunately for ‘Bigfoot’ Silva, his last fight, and indeed loss, was against Daniel Cormier, a training partner and to all intents and purposes identical fighting stylist as Velasquez. Cormier’s cardio is not as strong as Cain’s but his wrestling is superior. Their striking however, is on a very similar level and the fact Cormier managed to knock Silva out, suggests to me Cain will probably be able to do the same. This will be no easy feat for Velasquez though, so it would not be a surprise if this fight goes the full 15 minutes and ends up in the judges’ hands.
Roy Nelson vs Dave Herman
Roy Nelson is the proud owner of probably the most impressive chin in the UFC, having only been knocked out once in his career and somehow surviving a combined time of 45 minutes of battering from Junior Dos Santos, Frank Mir and Fabricio Werdum. Despite falling short when competing against the top tier heavyweights, Nelson has made a habit of ending competition early with his monstrous right hand. He has excellent wrestling and jiu-jitsu and certainly has knockout power.
Dave Herman, despite boasting an impressive record on paper, offers very little to this fight. He certainly doesn’t possess the same level of power as Junior so is unlikely to be able to knock out ‘Big Country’ Nelson, and after a hugely underwhelming performance against Stephan Struve, getting TKO’d in the second round, he showed an inability to compete on the ground either.
Everything in theory points toward a Nelson victory in this bout, and a convincing one at that. I foresee Herman being able to just about make it through the first round but struggling with Nelson’s wrestling and power in the second and succumbing to a second round stoppage, although with questions over Nelson’s cardio, there’s every chance of an ugly decision. Either way, if Nelson doesn’t leave with a win, it’ll be a huge surprise for Herman and spectators alike.
Stipe Miocic vs Shane Del Rosario
Miocic is a serial athlete, gaining interest from Major League Baseball teams while at university, competing in the NCAA Division 1 wrestling league and winning a Golden Gloves Championship. These skills pose a huge threat to Del Rosario, the UFC newcomer. The Croat is undefeated and boasts every win via knockout, with the exception of Joey Beltran.
Del Rosario is also unbeaten in MMA and no one has ever managed to last three rounds against him, with wins by both knockout and submission. He impressively managed to survive the truly scary power of Lavar Johnson, resulting in an arm bar victory.
The issue for Del Rosario is that Miocic’s wrestling pedigree will make it near impossible to get the fight to the ground – the only area I see Rosario having an advantage. However, Rosario’s kickboxing and Muay Thai pedigree may make him too proud to show he fears Miocic’s power. This fight will be a war and I see it going one of two ways; Miocic’s boxing proves superior to Rosario’s kickboxing and he gets the stoppage, or Rosario being able to out kickbox the Croatian, using his leg kicks and front kicks to keep Miocic at range and taking the fight to decision. I imagine Rosario will attempt to take the fight to the ground, but will be unable to due to Miocic’s wrestling. The more likely of the two in my opinion is Miocic by knockout as I would feel stupid to predict a decision with two prolific finishers, although sometimes that is how they play out.
Stefan Struve vs Lavar Johnson
Struve is the tallest fighter in the UFC at 6ft 11in, and due to that does not meet the expected stature of most other heavyweights. Despite his height and reach, he does not use that to his advantage the way Jon Jones does in the 205lbs division. He is a brawler and that is why he is such a fan favourite at the UFC, he puts himself in danger of being hit freely, throwing caution to the wind which sometimes results in victory, but when against elite strikers often results in his demise.
Lavar’s power is second to none, although his technical boxing, wrestling and jiu-jitsu suffer as he relies so heavily on his strength. The result has been four of his five loses being by submission, and this is the only way I see Struve winning this fight, via submission.
In reality I see Lavar planting one of his patented uppercuts to the chin of Stefan and as a result putting the Dutchman deep into a slumber, most likely within the first few minutes of the first round.