UFC 92: The Ultimate Turnaround

December 29, 2008

UFC 92 was full of dramatic stoppages, gutsy battles, upsets and redemption; all attributes that make for awesome fights, but what made it a truly momentous event was the impact it will have on the future. Each of the three main attractions were loaded with ramifications that will be felt well into the New Year, and one of the most shocking was Frank Mir's improbable win over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

Frank Mir ousting Nogueira as the interim heavyweight champion was obviously a huge upset for a variety of reasons, but what's most amazing is that not long from now, we'll be seeing Mir battle Brock Lesnar in a rematch for the unified heavyweight championship. That sounds wrong for so many reasons and it almost makes my head hurt to think about it, but at the same time, I can't wait to see it. I mean seriously, it wasn't even a year ago when Lesnar made his UFC debut (and lost!) against Mir, but he has since skyrocketed up the ladder and defeated Randy Couture, the most decorated champion in UFC history. On the other hand you have Frank Mir, who barely survived a horrific motorcycle accident only to return to the Octagon as a mere shadow of his former self. Most had all but written off Mir, saying the accident had taken its toll and there was no chance the once-gifted champion could ever be great again. Then, out of nowhere, Mir turned in the performance of his life as he completely dominated one of the all-time great fighters and achieved a feat not even the illustrious Fedor has been able to reach by knocking out Minotauro. With that, he solidified himself as a once-again dangerous man, and set up this mega fight that I am absolutely itching to watch.

At this time last year, however, a Mir/Lesnar fight was barley a draw. I mean, it was interesting for its examination of young vs. old, striker vs. grappler, etc but that was about it. It didn't seem to be a very important fight. The rematch however, will finally settle what has been a tumultuous struggle to name the UFC Undisputed Heavyweight Champion. That alone is enough to make a compelling fight, but factor in the storyline from the past and you've got the groundwork for an all out epic.

When these two men first met in February 2008, they were completely different fighters. Lesnar was an untested rookie, still learning the intricacies of a new sport, while Mir was grasping for his last breath as a fighter. The complete turnaround these guys have made over the past year is nothing but stunning; Lesnar is now a proven champion, and Mir represents a rejuvenated threat.

Lesnar showed tremendous restraint and growth in his fight with Randy Couture. He exchanged his frightening storm and swarm technique for a more refined and measured attack, and as he stood over Couture's mangled body, it proved to be the difference-maker.

And Mir. He showed up against Minotauro in shape and determined. His striking was crisper than ever before, his conditioning didn't seem to be a factor (though the fight barely lasted two rounds), his game plan was tight and his mind was focused. This was a dangerous man. Immediately after the stoppage, Mir looked for Lesnar at cage-side and warned, "You have my belt!"

At that point, my friend turned to me and asked if I could imagine having big enough balls to say something like that to Brock Lesnar. No I can't, but if there's one guy in the world who deserves to right now it's Frank Mir.

The questions remain though; will Mir be able to thwart another onslaught from the beast? Have Lasnar's skills improved enough to fend off Mir's black belt? Will Mir be able to stay focused and determined enough to beat the greener Champion? Will Lesnar be able to avoid the same rookie mistakes that lead to his demise in their first matchup?

We'll spend the next few months arguing about it and analyzing every detail of this matchup, but the truth is that no one knows the answers to these questions; sports are unpredictable, that's what makes them great, and MMA is perhaps the most volatile among them all. All we can do is sit back and enjoy the ride as this landmark fight materializes into what we hope to be a memorable and impactful event.