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UFC 81: Preview and Predictions

Saturday night's UFC 81 is an unusual event, in that they're fighting for the heavyweight championship of the world -- and that isn't the fight everyone is talking about.

No, the heavyweight title contest between Tim Sylvia and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira isn't seen as a legitimate title fight because the real champion, Randy Couture, has left UFC. The fight is actually for the "interim" title, UFC says, as though it's just a matter of time before they convince Couture to come back.

The fight everyone wants to see features former pro wrestling star Brock Lesnar taking on Frank Mir. Lesnar is fighting in UFC for the first time, but thanks to his pro wrestling past, he's already perhaps the UFC's most famous fighter.

Here are the details of Saturday's event:

What: UFC 81: Breaking Point

In addition to Sylvia vs. Nogueira and Mir vs. Lesnar, the main card features Alan Belcher taking on Ricardo Almeida and Nate Marquardt taking on Jeremy Horn.

When: Saturday, 10 p.m. ET

Where: Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas

How: Pay-per-view, $39.95 ($49.95 in HD).

Predictions after the jump.

Tim Sylvia vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Sylvia is the former heavyweight champ who lost his title to Couture. Nogueira is getting the title shot in just his second fight since UFC bought his contract from Pride, and I think he's going to follow in the footsteps of Rampage Jackson and become a champ.
Predicted winner: Nogueira

Frank Mir vs. Brock Lesnar
I realize most UFC fans and most pro wrestling fans disagree with me here, but I'm going to say it again: It's bad for the long-term health of UFC if Lesnar becomes one of its best fighters. The mainstream media just won't take a sport seriously if a guy who used to be a pro wrestler is one of its best competitors. Having said that, Lesnar is a great athlete with real credentials in real wrestling, and I do think he's going to win his UFC debut.
Predicted winner: Lesnar

Alan Belcher vs. Ricardo Almeida
The 23-year-old Belcher is actually more experienced in the Octagon than the 31-year-old Almeida, and I think both youth and experience will be served.
Predicted winner: Belcher

Nate Marquardt vs. Jeremy Horn
Horn was a late addition to this card when Thales Leites dropped out with a broken hand. I don't give Horn much of a chance.
Predicted winner: Marquardt

More information:
Official web site
UFC 81 at Wikipedia
Betting odds

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