It’s difficult to say what the main event of UFC 81 is this Saturday night. A better way of putting it is, the match you choose to think of as the main event says a lot about what kind of person you are. Kind of like a Rorschach test, only with blood inside an octagonal cage. I realize I might be freaking you out right now, so allow me to explain.
The two big fights this Saturday will feature Tim Sylvia taking on Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira for the “interim” heavyweight title, and former WWE star Brock Lesnar facing former UFC champ Frank Mir. Officially, Nogueira (or “Minotauro”, as he is commonly known) and Sylvia are the main event. Their match is, after all, for the title that Randy Couture vacated but which the UFC somehow refuses to strip him of.
And yet, the UFC’s advertising team didn’t get the memo. On billboards and taxi cabs in some areas, they are allegedly hyping the Lesnar-Mir fight instead. The reasoning is fairly simple: people know Brock Lesnar. By people, I mean pro wrestling fans. They are legion and they have money to spend on their various obsessions. MMA promoters have been trying to win them over in earnest for the last few years, and Lesnar is the best bet since Kurt Angle turned out to be more bark than bite.
That’s why this event is as much a personality quiz as anything else. Are you the aficionado who wants to see what will be the more meaningful, though probably also the more boring title fight between Sylvia and “Minotauro”? Or are you the sensationalist who wants to see the fireworks between Lesnar and Mir?
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Former WWE wrestler Brock Lesnar will make his UFC debut against former heavyweight champion Frank Mir, the UFC announced Monday. In a match slated for the February 2nd event in Las Vegas, Lesnar will try to live up to the almost overwhelming hype (considering his 1-0 record in MMA) in a somewhat surprising matchup.
Mir (10-3) is not only an experienced fighter, but his strong submissions game would appear to make him a very tough opponent for a former NCAA champion wrestler like Lesnar, who is still learning the submissions aspect of MMA.
Though Mir has never been quite the same since the motorcycle accident that almost ended his once-promising career (and which led to him being stripped of the UFC heavyweight title), he is still a dangerous fighter off his back and has enough experience in the cage that he isn’t as likely to get overwhelmed by Lesnar’s pure strength and aggression as, say, Min Soo Kim, who Lesnar defeated back in June.
Honestly, I’m a little surprised that the UFC is putting Lesnar up against such stiff competition right off the bat. Considering what they’ve got invested in him, you might think they’d want to bring him along a little slower.
Even considering Lesnar’s resume before MMA, I don’t think anyone would accuse the UFC of protecting him if he fought an Antoni Hardonk or a Justin McCullly for his first time in the Octagon. Experience in this game counts for a lot, and so far Lesnar has about one minute’s worth. If he gets tapped out by Frank Mir in a hurry, what does the UFC plan to do with him? Mir’s at a point in his career where he’s looking up at the gatekeepers in the division, so it seems like a big risk for Lesnar without a commensurate reward.
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