The co-main event is a rather delicious matchup between two Heavyweights ready for battle this weekend at the HP Pavillion. Opposite the aging, wily veteran is the aging, but spry mixed martial arts neophyte. Can will, skill, and speed overcome just skill?
Of course, I'm kidding about Mir being merely skilled (though we can all agree that he's outmatched on the surface). In fact, Mir is one of few fighters routinely disrespected by MMA fans who still seem perplexed by his presence. And yet when you stand back and look at his career, he's a modern marvel. Here's a guy who made a name for himself as a jiu jitsu ace, wowing us with his brilliant shoulder lock (dubbed the Mir lock) of Pete Williams, faded out after suffering a life-altering motorcycle accident, and then managed to win the UFC Interim Heavyweight Belt against credible opponents along the way.
It's a wonderful story, and one Mir doesn't get enough credit for. Many fighters would have likely avoided just getting back into the cage, let alone coming back and being successful.
For Mir, the narrative on him is that his story has come to an end. Against Junior dos Santos, Mir looked helpless. JDS battered him on the feet, and it was obvious early on that Mir didn't even belong in the same cage. Will Cormier achieve something similar?
Cormier is on an impressive run. Unbeaten, yes, but unbeaten against solid heavyweights like Josh Barnett and Antonio Silva. His world class wrestling pedigree has translated in a big way into a successful MMA career. Daniel's challenge is as much about figuring out a way to beat his opponent as it is about maintaining his momentum, and hype, and letting that momentum turn into a title shot.
What both men can do: Obviously, Mir's strength is on the ground. However, one of the things Frank has done well over the years is become better at using his size to get fights on the ground. Even against Roy Nelson, Mir unexpectedly used a little judo to fell his hefty opponent. As a submission artist, he benefits from good hips, and excellent timing from multiple angles of attack. It's important to remember that Mir doesn't just own a submission win over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, but he also submitted a Mundials champion in Roberto Traven; set up with punches or not (in the Traven fight at least), these wins emphasize just how dangerous Mir can really be when he gets a hold of you in an unenviable position.
Mir has also developed some serviceable standup. He's got a decent left hand, and a general one-two that gets the job done. Against Cormier (?) is another question.
Cormier excels in the wrestle-boxer mold. He's got exquisite power in his right hand, is tough as nails, and his wrestling prowess is well documented. Not just content with double legs, he's got excellent trip takedowns. What a lot of people like most about his boxing is the resemblance to Fedor's; a vicious lead right hand that has a knack for landing on an opponent's skull.
What both men can't do: A lot of observers would be hard pressed to think of Cormier's weakness, but it's hard to say when we know so little. Cormier has yet to fight a high level striker, for example. And on the ground, he doesn't have much experience against a real grappling wizard (not to discount Monson, but he specializes in top control, making him a horrible stylistic matchup).
Obviously, Mir doesn't fall into either of these categories, but if Mir did win, it might involve keeping a high guard and using his reach for the ugly win failing some sort of hail mary submission win. Which isn't all that unthinkable; fighters like Cormier often fall back on their instincts, even when it doesn't suit them. Might he slam Mir for the takedown only to find himself stuck in a submission?
Unfortunately for Mir this won't be the case where possibility meets probability. Mir isn't a durable fighter. If he gets cracked, he'll wilt. Even Big Nog's punches were enough to make him squirrely. Expect Daniel to land at least one solid punch, and expect that to be enough.
Prediction: Daniel Cormier by TKO, round 1.