This Saturday’s UFC 81: Breaking Point event features one of the most talked about fights in recent memory, as former WWE Champion Brock Lesnar (1-0) makes his MMA debut against former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir (10-3). It also features Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (30-4-1) facing Tim Sylvia (24-3) for the UFC Interim Heavyweight Title. This is the first event since Randy Couture left where the heavyweight division is taking center stage. MMAFightLine.com senior editors Raj Giri and Jason Perkins took the opportunity to predict their favorites for the top two fights.
UFC Interim Heavyweight Title
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (30-4-1) vs. Tim Sylvia (24-3)
Giri: An interesting fight, although I think with their styles it could be one that the crowd might not particularly like. However Sylvia and Nogueira have been two of the top heavyweights for a long time and this should be a good fight. Nogueira looked good in his last fight with Heath Herring despite being knocked silly in the first round by a high kick. Also, he’s never been put away by an opponent. Sylvia has never been knocked out, and he continues to be one of the more underrated fighters despite being a former two time heavyweight champion. I think he’ll manage to keep Nogueira against the cage work his clinch and deliver enough punishment to give him a decision victory, similar to his victory against Brandon Vera. Prediction: Sylvia via decision
Perkins: I agree, this fight has the potential to be a snorefest, but if the two do decide to throw bombs, however unlikely, it would be fun to watch as both men have steel jaws. I actually like Big Nog in this fight. True Sylvia is way underrated due mostly to his boring style, but Nog has really only tasted defeat to one man, Fedor Emelianenko; and that guys on a whole other level. I see Sylvia scoring some points in the clench and making it close but I think Nog catches him in something on the ground and subs him. Though Sylvia’s fought jiu jitsu guys before like Monson and Mir he’s never been in with anyone near the level of bjj that Big Nog brings and I think that will be the difference in the fight. Prediction: Nogueira via submission
Frank Mir (10-3) vs. Brock Lesnar (1-0)
Giri: I keep changing my mind on this fight. I have little doubt that Frank Mir will come into this fight in great shape. It’s his highest profile fight to date and he has a lot to lose. A win over Lesnar puts him in title contendership, while a one sided loss knocks him way down the ladder. Mir realizes this and he should be in the best shape since his accident, if not ever. Meanwhile, UFC has had a string of ‘next big thing’ hopefuls who have fallen by the wayside recently, including Houston Alexander and Sokoudjou. However, Brock Lesnar is a different type of animal. He’s got an amazing amateur background and his strength is pretty unbelievable. He’s been training MMA for almost two years, and anyone that has seen him train or sparred with him has been very impressed. I’ll go with the Las Vegas oddsmakers on this one, and go with Lesnar winning via TKO in the third round. Prediction: Lesnar via TKO
Perkins: I’m also really hedging on this one as well. It’s tough to call because no one knows exactly what Lesnar’s going to bring with him inside of the cage (maybe a ladder or a chair? That was a joke for you Raj. Please remove it :). He has immense natural abilities and has an elite amateur wrestling pedigree but Mir is a former champion who after years of rehabbing from a serious motorcycle accident may finally be healthy. He looked good against a game Antoni Hardonkin his last outing and if he weathers the early storm against Lesnar, he could use his enormous jiu jitsu advantage to pull this out. Lesnar has been working on his jiu jitsu and his striking but I wouldn’t give him an edge in either facet of the game at this point. Many people forget that Mir holds a black belt in both bjj and Kempo and he’s a vastly underrated striker. So, while Lesnar has a substantial edge in wrestling and could win via ground and pound or lay and prey, I’ll take experience and technique over raw power in this one. Prediction: Mir via submission