By Ryan Sarr
What better way to kick off the summer this Memorial Day weekend than with the star-studded, all-heavyweight UFC 146: Dos Santos vs. Mir. Though Alistair Overeem’s drug test dodging/excuse-making skills weren’t enough to save the original UFC 146 main event, we’re still in for a spectacular heavyweight title tilt with JDS and Frank Mir.
Dos Santos made his UFC debut almost four years ago at UFC 90, and three days before the fight Dana White posted footage of JDS hitting mits on his online video blog. Dos Santos’s hands looked incredible, and suddenly money came pouring in on the heavy underdog to beat Fabricio Werdum, which he did in devastating fashion. Since then, Dos Santos has put together the best resume in UFC Heavyweight history, destroying everyone in his path. So, is Mir going to be just another notch on JDS’s belt, or will JDS have an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon Sunday morning? Join me as I break down each fight on UFC 146′s main card, and don’t forget to come back to CagePotato tomorrow night for our liveblog of the event.
They say that styles make fights, and Saturday night’s heavyweight championship is going to be a clash between two men who are the best in the division at their chosen styles. Junior Dos Santos is so confident in his boxing skills that he says he could hang with the Klitschko brothers with three months’ training, and Frank Mir’s jiu-jitsu is so good that he broke Minotauro Nogueira’s arm after Nogueira had Mir teetering on unconsciousness. Both of these men have a wealth of Octagon experience, but neither man has ever fought into the championship rounds of a fight. That shouldn’t be an issue Saturday night, however, for this fight will probably end well before the final bell.
For Dos Santos, the game plan is simple: keep this fight on the feet. Dos Santos’ belief in his hands has to be at an all-time high, as he’s coming off his knockout of previously undefeated former champion Cain Velasquez in 64 seconds. If JDS can control the Octagon against Mir and use his superb counter-punching, I can see him finishing Mir early. Dos Santos has very quick hands for a heavyweight, and his uppercut is devastating. Just one counter hook or uppercut, and it could be lights out for Mir.
Mir’s striking skills have gotten better in the past few years, as he has outstruck and finished notable strikers Mirko Cro Cop and Chieck Kongo, but Mir would not be wise to try his luck on the feet Saturday night. As Mir has stated, he’s looking to pull guard on Dos Santos, and work off his back to submit him. It has to worry Dos Santos that Mir just snapped the arm of the man who teaches him jiu-jitsu, and I don’t see any circumstance where JDS would voluntarily go to the ground with Mir, even following a knockdown. So, the key to this fight, in my mind, is the clinch game. Mir has shown that he is vulnerable to the uppercut in the clinch, and Dos Santos could easily finish the fight there, but if Mir can control the clinch and get Dos Santos to the ground, it might be time to prep the surgery room for Dos Santos.
Prediction: Dos Santos’ is a great defensive wrestler, and has never been taken to the ground for a significant amount of time. I don’t see Frank Mir being able to change that; JDS will keep this fight standing and finish Mir in the first round with a trademark uppercut.
Cain Velasquez (9-1, 7-1 UFC) vs. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva (16-3, 0-0 UFC)
This matchup seems tailor-made for Velasquez to rebound following his November loss to Junior Dos Santos. Velasquez was steamrolling the competition before he was caught by a right hand from JDS at UFC on Fox 1. He still remains the best wrestler in the heavyweight division, and even though he weighs only 245 lbs, Velasquez has proven he has no problem handling bigger guys like Silva, who will probably weigh over 275 lbs on Saturday night. Plus, his American Kickboxing Academy teammate Daniel Cormier just demolished Silva last September in the semi-finals of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix.
Silva looked impressive in his victory over Fedor Emelianenko, but how much of that can be attributed to Fedor’s waning abilities and Silva’s sheer size advantage? Silva just doesn’t have an area of advantage in this fight. Velasquez is very similar in style to Cormier, in that he is a world-class wrestler that can easily take you down and pound on you, and he can also stand in front of you and knock you out. Silva is not going to outwork and outpoint Velasquez, his only shot in this fight is to connect with punches early and get a quick knockout like Junior Dos Santos did. I just don’t think Velasquez will give him the chance.
Prediction: Velasquez keeps the pressure on Silva with takedowns and solid ground and pound, and grinds out a unanimous decision victory, never giving Silva a chance to knock him out.
Dave Herman (21-3, 1-1 UFC) vs. Roy Nelson (16-7, 3-3 UFC)
Both fighters come into this fight following losses in their last outings, Nelson to Fabricio Werdum and Herman to Stefan Struve. It is Nelson, however, who seems to have the advantage in this fight. Nelson has fought much better opponents than Herman, and even knocked out Struve in under a minute when they fought a couple years ago. Nelson has a great right hand, solid takedowns, and the ability to do serious damage on the ground. Herman prefers to stand and strike, and is not afraid to be aggressive with his attacks. Both of these fighters have questionable gas tanks though, and the winner could very well be the man whose cardio holds up over three rounds. Herman’s best chance is to knock out Nelson, but those chances are slim, for Nelson has proven to be very difficult to finish.
Prediction: Roy Nelson bounces back and just like he did to Kimbo, gives Dave Herman the Big Country crucifix en route to a second-round stoppage.
Stipe Miocic (8-0, 2-0 UFC) vs. Shane Del Rosario (11-0, 0-0 UFC)
In their 19 combined fights, only one has gone the distance, and the undefeated Del Rosario has never even seen the third round of a fight. Though he hasn’t fought in over a year, Del Rosario looked impressive in his last fight when he dispatched fellow heavyweight prospect Lavar Johnson in the first round with an armbar. Miocic knocked out undefeated Philip de Fries in less than a minute in his last fight, and he has shown in his two Octagon outings that he has solid takedowns and effective striking. Del Rosario, however, is much better than anyone Miocic has ever fought, and I don’t think Miocic will be able to keep Del Rosario from taking him down and imposing his will.
Prediction: Look for Del Rosario to go for the takedown early, and from there advance his position while delivering lots of damage to Miocic. Miocic will just be another stepping stone for Del Rosario, who will win by first round TKO.
Lavar Johnson (17-5, 2-0 UFC) vs. Stefan Struve (23-5, 7-3 UFC)
This fight could very well be the Fight of the Night on Saturday. After fan-favorite Mark Hunt bowed out due to injury, Johnson stepped into his slot against Struve only three weeks removed from his destruction of Pat Barry at UFC on Fox 3. Both Johnson and Struve love to strike, and we could see lots of big punches traded between these two. The difference in this fight though is the ground game. While Struve has shown he is very adept on the ground, with 15 submission victories in his career, Johnson’s ground game (or lack thereof) was exposed by Pat Barry, who isn’t known for his submission or wrestling skills. Struve does have a susceptible chin however, with all three of his UFC losses coming by first-round knockout. So, if Johnson can land some of those big punches he landed against Barry on Struve, Johnson can easily take this fight. But Struve will likely try to get this fight to the ground, where he can work his submissions on Johnson, who surely didn’t grow a ground game in three weeks.
Prediction: While still very young, Stefan Struve has been somewhat of a heavyweight gatekeeper — and he will slam that gate closed on Johnson Saturday night. Struve by first-round triangle choke.