May 26th is a special day. Besides being the date of birth of both Pam Grier AND Kenny Florian, it’s also a day that, for some reason, Zuffa decided to produce a pay per view consisting of nothing but heavyweights.
This card has seen enough replacements that it looks almost nothing like it did when it was originally announced. Zuffa already had to go to the well to dig up Lavar Johnson at the last minute. We’ve seen this card lose Alistair Overeem, Mark Hunt (sad face), Gabriel Gonzaga … hell, Jamie Varner got a call to fight on this card. If we have one more guy drop out, we might see Jonathan Wiezorek again.
It’s also no surprise that because this is heavyweight MMA, I expect nothing but knockouts and ground and pound beatings. These fights just aren’t going the distance, and if they do, they risk turning into cartoonish gong shows (especially Herman-Nelson). However, weirdly, I think this card will do good numbers. The whole “These guys are big!” dynamic. Who the hell wants to see great fighters like Edson Barboza and up-and-comers like Diego Brandao? It sure ain’t me. I’d rather see some big boys punchin’ and wrasslin’, so I can write an event preview.
Lavar Johnson vs. Stefan Struve
Here we have yet another late replacement, this time in the form of Lavar “Nobody In The UFC Is As Bad As I Am On The Ground” Johnson. This fight, like the Hunt one would have been, is black and white. Either Stefan Struve is going to have his face put on backwards, or Lavar Johnson is going to be tapping.
In a way, this is a perfect fight for Johnson. If he gets submitted, well, he was a late replacement. If he knocks Struve out, all of a sudden people are talking about throwing him into a title eliminator. Ah … heavyweight MMA.
Strangely enough, I like Johnson here. I think he has the tenacity to pursue that big punch and fold Struve up like a card table. Still, I just can’t take Lavar Johnson seriously. He’s truly putrid on the ground, and he knows it. On top of that, he has no standup technique. It’s amazing what power can do for some guys. Johnson by TKO, first round. But if not, Stefan Struve by submission is the only other call here. It’s a good thing I don’t gamble.
Roy Nelson vs. Dave Herman
Dave Herman’s entire career can be summed up in between the 1st and 2nd rounds of his UFC debut bout against Jon Olav Einemo. His corner basically looked at him and said “Dave … PLEASE try harder.” That’s Dave Herman, a man who has tremendous talent and athleticism, along with the mindset of a box of Wheat Thins.
All bets are off with this guy. He could walk to the cage with a full back tattoo of himself and I wouldn’t be surprised. He could be overwhelmed with punches by Choi Mu Bae, a mongoloid Korean in a diaper, and I wouldn’t be surprised (this actually happened, by the way). He’s the kind of guy that says jiu jitsu “doesn’t work”, doesn’t seem to take his career very seriously, and fought his last fight with so much back hair that the usually subdued Jon Anik couldn’t stop himself from saying “Dave Herman … the first man to ever be allowed into the Octagon wearing a sweater.” If nothing else, Herman’s fights always feature entertainment, whether he’s doing something spectacular or embarrassing himself.
Roy Nelson has been thrown into a cauldron of curious matchmaking lately. I admire Joe Silva and Sean Shelby, and I think they both do a wonderful job making appropriate, relevant matchups. It can’t be easy, especially considering the amount of fighters they’re in charge of booking on a constant basis. That being said, I don’t understand why they kept matching Nelson up with top ten heavyweights. After his last lopsided loss against Fabricio Werdum, the choruses of “Roy Nelson sucks, he’s too fat and slow, cut him” could be heard from all the people who didn’t understand that Nelson had no business fighting a guy like Werdum in the first place. Roy Nelson doesn’t suck. He’s a very good heavyweight, but he’s far from a great one. He’s someone that is a stern acid test for any up and comer, a guy that can absolutely stick around in the UFC for as long as he wants as long as he’s matched up against guys he has a snowball’s chance in hell against.
Could I see Dave Herman being far too fast and powerful for Roy? Could Dave Herman actually outpoint Roy Nelson and send him packing? Absolutely. But I think it’s far (FAR) more likely that Herman blows it. See if you can envision this scenario: Herman comes out in the first round and throws everything but the kitchen sink at Roy, who can do little more than answer with an overhand right every now and again. Joe Rogan starts saying things like “Herman’s so athletic” and “Roy has to get inside if he wants to do anything against Herman, because this strategy of putting his hands up and trying to counter isn’t working for him, Mike.” Rinse and repeat for about 2 minutes of the second round. Now Joe’s saying things like “We could have an upset in the making, Mike!” Right as this is happening, Herman slips on the Bud Light logo, and all of a sudden he’s on his ass. Now Roy’s on top, the one place you don’t want him if you’re Dave Herman. Herman has no chance from here, and Roy knows it. He slaps on a mounted crucifix and punches until there’s a gaping hole in Herman’s beard. Herman then mentally checks out and loses the third round off of his back. Sound farfetched? Didn’t think so. Roy by decision.
Stipe Miocic vs. Shane Del Rosario
Two undefeated prospects look to further their careers with a big win here. They’re pretty different, though. While it’s not exactly fair to call Shane’s wins “bad”, there isn’t a single name on that list that jumps out. In fact, most of them jump out because of how bad they are. Lloyd “Kadillac” Marshbanks, a man who might seriously be wider than he is tall. Brandon Cash. Maxim Grishin. The immortal Lolohea Mahe. He beat Lavar Johnson in his last fight, and Johnson is admittedly dangerous. But I also can’t think of anyone in the UFC who is worse on the ground. I guess the one thing you could say about Shane is that he’s beaten the guys he was supposed to beat, which is everyone he’s fought.
Mind you, I’m not hating on Del Rosario’s skills, because he definitely has a few. But this is a huge step up for him, both in competition and exposure. Stipe Miocic isn’t playing games.
Our two fight teaser of Stipe Miocic in the UFC has been an enticing one. It isn’t too often you come across a big guy that can move as smoothly and effectively as Stipe. He’s done exactly what he’s had to do so far, outpointing a technically deficient Joey Beltran and clobbering an overmatched Phil De Fries with a straight right.
This fight is going to come down to striking, and I believe Miocic has the advantage. Del Rosario will have to go back to the drawing board after Miocic finds his range and TKO’s him with punches and knees at the end of the second round.
Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva
This fight has my interest piqued, for one reason and one reason only: I want to see how Cain Velasquez looks. Lots of questions are abound after his first loss. How does he rebound from being KO’d for the first time? Is he finally healthy? What will his strategy look like against the daunting Antonio Silva?
Antonio Silva is a very skilled heavyweight that sometimes gets into trouble because he isn’t the fastest guy in the world, and he can be a bit plodding. Let’s give the guy a break, though. I mean, if I was that big, I’d just get a gig as a bodyguard for some washed up celebrity (probably Biz Markie) and communicate through an elaborate series of grunts. The fact that Bigfoot has developed a rock solid, well rounded MMA game deserves props.
Bigfoot is a nice test to see where Cain is at mentally. Cain has a significant speed advantage on the feet, and his hooks and straight punches could wreak havoc on Silva, who is an able striker in his own right. If Silva can somehow get on top, he could outgrapple Velasquez. Antonio Silva is very, very good at staying heavy, and shows a nice ability to land strikes as well as go for submissions.
But what are the odds of that happening? Velasquez is absurdly good with his wrestling. He can take you down with a shot, from the clinch, or in a scramble. He’s great with short punches inside, but can also strike from range. He’s absolutely terrifying if he gets your back or has you in any kind of precarious position on the floor. He doesn’t let you rest. He doesn’t stop. I think he turns in a masterpiece of a performance here, dropping Bigfoot with a big right hand and landing far too many blows before the referee finally shows mercy. Cain by TKO, round 2.
Junior dos Santos vs. Frank Mir
I’ll spare you the pious “Alistair Overeem is an idiot that didn’t deserve to be licensed anyway” diatribe, other than to say this: wow. Wow, Alistair Overeem. At long last, have you no sense of decency, sir? Have you no sense of decency?
(If the Jackass guys ever make another movie, the main “stunt” should be Johnny Knoxville making an appointment with Dr. Hector Molina for some procedure that he isn’t officially licensed for. That would be riveting cinema.)
(One more thing: after last night’s Strikeforce card, it’s really a bummer that Daniel Cormier wont be making his UFC debut anytime soon. He would have been an awesome addition to this card. That guy is amazing. Love his hands, love his wrestling, love his confidence. Daniel Cormier is going places.)
The real tragedy of the Alistair Overeem saga is that poor Frank Mir has been thrust into an improbable title shot against the best heavyweight alive. Never mind the fact that he’s going to lose this fight in spectacular fashion; I’d like to take a moment to give Frank Mir props.
If you had told me after Mir snuggled with Dan Christison that he would eventually fight his way back to a heavyweight title shot, I would have not only laughed at you, I also would have probably spit out whatever beverage I was drinking at the time. This guy looked TERRIBLE after his motorcycle accident. He couldn’t strike, and he was no mortal lock to score submissions either because he was prone to getting beat up on the bottom.
But, here we are. Mir has improved his standup technique vastly, especially in the footwork and “not getting hit” departments. However, the fact remains that this is a nightmare matchup for him, as he scores most of his takedowns from the clinch, which also happens to be the area of the fight that JDS defends the best against. I can’t see someone like Mir putting JDS on his back for more than 1.54 seconds. JDS’s hips are too springy and quick.
So, that leaves the standup. And, um … yeah. Frank Mir is going to get hit with a punch. Then, he’s probably going to get hit with another one. He’ll gamely try to fire back, but he’ll only be met with yet another punch. Dos Santos will keep punching Frank Mir in the face until he stops moving. Junior by KO. There will be no shots of Alistair in the crowd, and there DEFINITELY won’t be any shots of Jon Jones.