The night's co-main event sees two heavyweight veterans taking part in a rematch of a UFC Interim Heavyweight Championship bout, which Mir won by technical knockout. The bout itself followed a season of build up as coaches of the Ultimate Fighter and served as the high point of Mir's post motorcycle accident career in the UFC. Shortly after the bout it was revealed Big Nog had battled a staph infection during training, adding a bit of intrique to the bout, with Nog looking to show his healthy self is superioir to Mir, while Mir is out to prove once-and-for-all the first fight was no fluke.
Frank Mir rarely seems to get the respect from fans that his accolades and talents would seem to require, due in large part to a heel turn made in the lead up to his rematch with Brock Lesnar. While the new smack-talking Mir earned himself plenty more attention than his quiet self, it also led many fans to follow him as a love-to-hate proposition. While it is true the UFC's Heavyweight division was not always the deepest in the world, ownership of the UFC Heavyweight Title and the interim strap as well is something to be proud of.
Mir has been a bit of an enigma since the first time these two squared off. His rematch with Brock Lesnar for the unified title want much like the first fight, minus the part where Mir snatched victory from the jaws of brutal defeat. A bounce back performance against "Cup" Cheick Kongo saw Mir drop the kick boxer on the feet before locking on a sub, only to stumble in his next bout when he again appeared too weak to deal with a physically imposing opponent in Shane Carwin. Mir has since strung together consecutive wins against Cro Cop and Roy Nelson, but late KO-knee against Cro Cop aside, Mir hardly dazzled in either outing, handing in decisive but dull efforts.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Mir has worked diligently in recent years to become a more complete mixed martial artist from his early UFC career as a grappling-centric fighter. Although his new conservative approach has not wowed fans at all times, it's proved effective when not faced with an opponent who has Mir physically outmatched, a concern he won't have with Big Nog. When on point, Mir has also shown that he has power, as evidenced by his dropping Kongo and Nogueira as well as full-on KO'ing Cro Cop, though questions remain about what, if any, integrity remained in the Croation's chin by the time he faced Mir.
Mir is a top-notch grappler, with great submissions, particularly for a heavyweight where such practitioners are not the norm. All that said, while there may not be many fighters unafraid to find themselves playing off their back against the former champion, Big Nog is one of them. Don't look for Mir to consider bringing the fight down unless he is finding the feet to be difficult sledding. If Mir is to win it will likely be by decision or, if you rate him as a solid favorite over Big Nog as I do, with a second round TKO. This is one of those fights where Vegas says the fantasy books are pretty much bang on, so it comes down to your feel on the fight. Mir seems a solid favorite, but with Big Nog showing well in his last outing with Brendan Schaub I'll be staying away at these odds.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira analysis after the jump.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
While the main event features two fighters working on building resumes to go down as all-time greats, the undercard includes several fighters who have the honor done-and-dusted, not least of all in Big Nog. As a former Pride Heavyweight Champion and UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion who isn't likely to get another shot at the UFC title, particularly not while his protege Junior Dos Santos holds it, the chance to avenge his last title defeat to Mir may well prove to be the most significant fight of Nog's career run-in.
Big Nog has been relatively inactive since the Mir bout in late 2008, with this bout making 2011 the first year since in which Nog has fought twice. His 2009 battle came against Randy Couture in a bout which, much like Liddell vs. Silva, managed to deliver an exciting show while also making fans wish it occured just a few years earlier. Following the decision win, Nog was given a contendership fight with Cain Velasquez who made short work of the Brazilian with a TKO in just over two minutes. Many were ready to write Big Nog off as another faded star to be fed to prospects, and while it's likely that was some of the motivation behind his match-up with Brendan Schaub, instead Big Nog dropped the former pro football player to improve to 2-1 since the loss to Mir.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Although not afraid to mix it up on the feet, as much for his legendary ability to take a punch as much as his ability to dish one out, Big Nog's comfort zone is on the ground, be it on top or off his back. It remains to be seen if he will possess enough of an edge to threaten Mir should Nog find himself on bottom, however overall the Brazilian possesses superior BJJ to his American counterpart. The biggest concern for Nog has to come with worries about how much of his granite chin has been chipped off through the years as his last two defeats have ended with Big Nog TKO'ed.
Big Nog showed some rarely utilized power in making quick work of Schaub but has not historically been a fighter who gets the job done on the feet, relying instead on his world class Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skills. Against Mir this is not the easiest route to a finish. Big Nog is capable of tapping any fighter on the planet, but at the end of the day the most likely route for Big Nog to have his hand raised is the one which requires 15 minutes of positional dominance and ground-and-pound. As previously mentioned the fantasy betting community is walking in stride with the real books on this bout, but I still see some value to be had in Big Nog at +215. While his impressive KO last time out and Mir's often lackluster performance since the first iteration of this sequel don't quite have me convinced of a Nog win, they've done enough to convince that he's got a better than the ~1/3-chance the odds are giving.