UFC 146 will feature an all-heavyweight main card, an idea that has its advantages and its disadvantages. Advantages include the likelihood for a lot of stoppages and an appeal to those who enjoy heavyweight MMA more than the other weight classes. The biggest disadvantage is that there seems to be a greater chance that heavyweights withdraw from fights due to injury (I don’t have data to back that up, but it certainly seems to be the case). Here’s how the UFC 146 card looked originally:
- Junior dos Santos vs. Alistair Overeem
- Cain Velasquez vs. Frank Mir
- Antonio Silva vs. Roy Nelson
- Mark Hunt vs. Stefan Struve
- Shane del Rosario vs. Gabriel Gonzaga
And here’s how it looks now:
- Junior dos Santos vs. Frank Mir
- Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva
- Roy Nelson vs. Dave Herman
- Stefan Struve vs. Lavar Johnson
- Shane del Rosario vs. Stipe Miocic
To the UFC’s credit, they were able to keep the main card somewhat intact, as every heavyweight competing is at least a quality fighter. At the same time, losing the title fight of Junior dos Santos vs. Alistair Overeem and instead getting Frank Mir is a genuine bummer. But here are my thoughts on the main card fights:
265 lbs: Shane del Rosario (11-0, 0-0 UFC) vs. Stipe Miocic (8-0, 2-0 UFC)
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get over the idea that Stipe Miocic has a Croatian name, and wears the trunks of Mirko Cro Cop, but was born in Ohio and when he speaks, sounds very much like somebody who was born in Ohio. One thing that doesn’t throw me for a loop is how good of a prospect he is. Miocic won his UFC debut against Joey Beltran despite having just 18 months of pro MMA experience, and followed that up with a lightning-fast KO of Phil De Fries in his last fight. Miocic has good striking, including very good leg kicks, and has a very strong wrestling background as well. With Miocic rated as the #14 heavyweight in the world by SILVA at such an early point in his career, it’s not too difficult to see a championship fight happening sometime in his future.
But Miocic will be taking on a very tough opponent in Shane del Rosario. Like Miocic, del Rosario is undefeated and has well-rounded skills, including a kickboxing background to go along with a competent ground game. In fact, there’s a lot about these two that are very similar: both fighters usually are able to finish their opponent, both are well-rounded, and both are undefeated. Naturally, it stands to reason that they would have almost an identical SILVA score. The one thing I feel is in Miocic’s favor is again that he has just been succeeding at a very fast pace, with two years of pro fighting experience compared to del Rosario’s six years, not to mention that del Rosario has been very inactive lately.
SILVA PREDICTION: STIPE MIOCIC (67.88) OVER SHANE DEL ROSARIO (66.74)
265 lbs: Lavar Johnson (17-5, 2-0 UFC) vs. Stefan Struve (23-5, 7-3 UFC)
I don’t think I’ve ever previewed a fight with such a stark contrast in fighters, and that includes the initial proposed fight between Struve and Mark Hunt. Lavar Johnson is a big fighter, hits like a ton of bricks, and has won 15 out of 22 career fights by KO/TKO. He’s also a complete fish out of water on the ground. Meanwhile, Stefan Struve has a few wins by TKO and a bunch by submission, and is quietly one of the better submission fighters in the UFC. He also is extremely tall but has little idea how to use his reach, and has been violently knocked out three times in the UFC now.
I have no insight to offer that anybody else wouldn’t. If Struve fails to get this fight to the ground, I expect Johnson to pummel him and knock him out. If Struve does manage to get Johnson to the ground, he should be able to win by submission in short order. The one thing that might make this fight lean Struve’s way is that Johnson has fairly awful cardio and typically starts fading by the end of the first round. At the same time, Struve does not have good takedowns, and has only landed three in the entirety of his UFC career thus far. Throw it all together, and this looks like a toss-up fight that will end with one fighter having looked so much better than the other.
SILVA PREDICTION: STEFAN STRUVE (55.36) OVER LAVAR JOHNSON (50.80)
265 lbs: Dave Herman (21-3, 1-1 UFC) vs. Roy Nelson (16-7, 3-3 UFC)
When Chan Sung Jung was set to face Dustin Poirier in the main event of UFC on Fuel 3 a couple weeks ago, I stated that I felt Jung was the most overrated fighter in the UFC. Then Jung made me look like a complete and utter moron. While I’m in full acknowledgement of just how awful my declaration on Jung was, I’m going to double down and risk looking like even more of a moron by saying that Roy Nelson is now the most overrated fighter in the UFC.
Those who follow this blog won’t be surprised by that declaration on my part, but it bears mentioning that Nelson is 3-5 in his last eight fights, was knocked out by Andrei Arlovski and was completely pummeled by all of Junior dos Santos, Frank Mir, and Fabricio Werdum. The dos Santos pummeling is completely forgivable; Mir and Werdum less so. Honestly, Nelson is a fighter with a good ground game and decent punching power, but he’s not a good striker, not a good wrestler, and has poor conditioning. This is one of the top 15 heavyweights in the world? I don’t buy it.
Meanwhile, his opponent will be Dave Herman, a fighter who inexplicably decided he should look like the wolfman in his last fight against Stefan Struve. Thankfully, he won’t be sporting that look this time around, but he does have dynamic striking and is unusually athletic for the heavyweight division. At the same time, his striking defense is generally bad and his conditioning might be worse. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if this became an awful fight to watch for the second and third rounds.
SILVA PREDICTION: DAVE HERMAN (66.42) OVER ROY NELSON (39.17)
265 lbs: Antonio Silva (16-3, 0-0 UFC) vs. Cain Velasquez (9-1, 7-1 UFC)
I’m not sure how Antonio Silva felt about being offered a change in opponent from “Big Country” Nelson to Cain Velasquez, but it must have been at least a bit daunting for him to think about. Velasquez has extremely quick, powerful boxing, excellent takedowns, and phenomenal conditioning. In many ways, Velasquez is the anti-Nelson. When I break this fight down, I honestly have serious trouble finding out how Silva wins this fight.
Sure, Silva could win by KO, as Velasquez has shown that he has issues when he gets hit. At the same time, Silva’s striking power is overrated, as when he wins by TKO, it’s usually with punches from full mount. And Velasquez is so much faster than Silva that it’s not even funny. Silva is known for being a slow heavyweight, while Velasquez has very quick combinations. Meanwhile, the best part of Silva’s MMA game is his ground game from top position, but is he really going to be able to get Velasquez there? I have trouble envisioning something other than Velasquez crushing Silva in this one.
SILVA PREDICTION: CAIN VELASQUEZ (77.08) OVER ANTONIO SILVA (75.47)
265 lbs: Junior dos Santos (14-1, 8-0 UFC) vs. Frank Mir (16-5, 14-5 UFC)
The funny thing about this fight is that there’s a legitimate argument to be made that Frank Mir is the best UFC heavyweight of all time. If that sounds absurd, consider that Mir was at one point the champion, at another the interim champion, and has wins against three of the UFC’s better heavyweights ever in Tim Sylvia, Brock Lesnar, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Add in that Mir has more UFC wins than any heavyweight ever, and you have your case. It can obviously be argued, and in no way are Mir’s credentials comparable to Fedor Emelianenko’s as the best MMA heavyweight of all time, but his accomplishments are quite noteworthy.
And yet, it seems like Mir is being led to the slaughter. Make no mistake about it, Mir has issues in the striking game: all five of his career losses are by KO/TKO. He looked just plain bad in his last four fights, against Nogueira, Roy Nelson, Mirko Cro Cop, and Shane Carwin. With Mir now an 11-year MMA veteran, it definitely seems that he’s on a downward trend as far as his fighting skills are concerned. And his opponent, Junior dos Santos, is easily the best striker in the heavyweight division, with a rare blend of striking volume and knockout power for the sport. A lot of fighters have the volume, and a lot have the power, but few have both quite like dos Santos.
We know what Mir needs to do to win this fight: submit dos Santos. Given Mir’s extensive history of winning by submission, and dos Santos being relatively untested on the ground, it’s a distinct possibility. But then, when I look at dos Santos’s massive advantage in striking, excellent takedown defense, and vastly superior conditioning, the math just doesn’t add up for Mir. Sure, it’s possible that Mir is able to suck dos Santos into a scramble, latch onto an arm, and win by submission. It’s also possible that dos Santos wins by KO within 60 seconds. Let’s not over-think this one… Junior dos Santos is almost certainly going to win by knockout in this fight.
SILVA PREDICTION: JUNIOR DOS SANTOS (87.42) OVER FRANK MIR (72.04)