In our lives we come across those we inevitably look up to and are inspired by. Music has its Bachs and Beethovens, literature has its Shakespeares and Hemingways, science has its Einsteins and Darwins, and MMA has its Coutures and Nogueiras.
Those two have registered a historic collection of emotionally inspiring performances that define the "anything can happen" catchphrase. Facing a musclebound leviathan straight out of a comic book who outweighed him by more than 100-pounds, we saw Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira lifted off his feet like a helpless infant and dropped directly on his head. We were genuinely concerned for his health and safety when the heavyweight division's most feared striker was kicking him around the Pride ring like a tin can.
Big Nog is an anomalous legend because he's pulled off MMA's equivalent of the half-court buzzer beater and last second Hail Mary touchdown with regular frequency. In Pride, it was the come-from-behind armbars over Bob Sapp and Mirko Filipovic; in the UFC, it was the dramatic submission of Tim Sylvia and arresting knockout of Brendan Schaub. Whether in his career overall or in individual fights, we've counted him out time after time and he keeps proving us wrong.
Though he's not received with the same gushing adoration, Frank Mir deserves worlds of credit for the adversity he's overcome. He became the UFC heavyweight champion by snapping Sylvia's arm after everyone wrote him off as a one-dimensional sub guy. Shortly after achieving his dream, he was mangled in a motorcycle accident with the prognosis that his career was likely over.
Not only did Mir defy those odds and continue to compete at the elite level, he evolved from the mere shell of himself who suffered embarrassing defeats to Marcio Cruz and Brandon Vera into a more complete mixed martial artist than he's ever been. The climb back has been long and arduous but, seven years after winning the title, Frank Mir is ranked sixth in the world and still one of the top heavyweight contenders.
Gifs and analysis in the full entry.
Big Nog weaved yet another miracle against Brendan Schaub at UFC 134, rocketing an overhand right for another unbelievable storybook stoppage.
While, offensively, his boxing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are phenomenal, Big Nog has an extreme deficit in the defense department that's resulted in him absorbing an exorbitant amount of punishment. It's a huge part of why his thrilling comebacks have been so amazing but also a very salient technical flaw.
The way he seems to have increased the power in his punches still stands as an encouraging factor.
Like his brother, Nog is unnervingly comfortable -- perhaps too comfortable -- trading blows in the pocket. He has an excellent knack for bobbing and weaving while uncorking a beautiful left hook (his best punch) and his straight right hand. Nog gets away with staying a little too flat-footed and stationary in striking exchanges, which leaves a fighter susceptible to takedowns, because few can match his high level submission acumen. Mir, however, is one of the rarities who can. Both have traditionally been considered the most graceful and talented guard players in the heavyweight landscape.
Frank Mir cemented himself as a creative submissionist early in his career. I've always thought his Muay Thai was a little under-rated but now he's developed a frightening amount of power to authenticate his striking wit.
Other key improvements for Mir include finding the right balance of size, strength and agility by honing his physique into top form and fortifying his wrestling and clinch game. The BJJ-based heavyweight has not won by submission or even employed his grappling since kneebarring Brock Lesnar in 2008 besides finishing off the dazed Kongo with a guillotine.
Fans who'd longed for years to see two of the most talented heavyweight submissionists tangle on the ground where deprived of the opportunity by Mir's crunching left hand in their initial meeting at UFC 92. It was the first time Nogueira, who'd built a reputation for having one of the best chins in MMA, lost by TKO in his entire career.
Even though I think Mir will be victorious in this rematch, I'm hoping we'll witness these two dueling back and forth on the feet and engaging in an epic chess match on the mat. I expect Nog to be better prepared for Mir on the feet this time around with more opportunities to implement his offense.
Overall, Mir's improved punching power, clinch strength and wrestling give him more avenues toward victory than Nogueira, especially considering the latter's tendency to take a wicked beating. I will add that Big Nog is still a bit more polished and dynamic in all of the striking aspects excluding defense.
They compare on the ground much like they do standing: Mir is more direct, deliberate and merciless in plugging heavy punches and cruelly snatching submissions, where Nogueira dials in his boxing more methodically with a wider variety of strikes and artful angles while smoothly coaxing his opponent into submissions.
Another completely speculative concern is that Mir might be over-confident in his striking based on his recent enhancements and the results of the first fight. He is not devoid of defensive lulls either, as we saw in the Shane Carwin fight. Mir's life raft should be his ability to tie up and neutralize Nogueira in the clinch or take him down while avoiding subs if he's not digging things on the feet.
My Prediction: Frank Mir by decision
Mir vs. Kongo gif via MMA-Core.com
All others via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com