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Nogueira vs. Mir: Two men with something to prove

It's almost amazing to think that a guy like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira still has anything to prove in the sport of MMA. We're talking about a fighter that has mixed it up successfully with competitors like Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic (submission), Josh Barnett (decision), Bob Sapp (armbar), Heath Herring (three wins), Tim Sylvia (guillotine choke), Sergei Kharitonov (decision), Fabricio Werdum (decision), Dan Henderson (submission), and Mark Coleman (submission). Even when he has lost, he's shown tremendous heart and a never say die attitude against the likes of Josh Barnett (he split decisions with him), Fedor Emelianenko (lost two decisions), and Dan Henderson (split two decisions with him).

Yet people are still questioning him on something as he prepares to take on fellow TUF 8 coach Frank Mir. Namely, they're questioning his athleticism in relation to his soon-to-be opponent.

Poll: What's your pick for Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Frank Mir?

Of course, maybe there's reason when you look at the fighter he's about to mix it up with. Frank Mir is a 240 pound fighter that moves like a middleweight and shows the kind of power that has proven capable of snapping Tim Sylvia's arm in a moment's notice. Further, against Fedor Emelianenko? particularly in their second fight? we saw Nogueira literally get thrown around the ring and dominated. Now that's not to say he ever stopped fighting?Nogueira never does. But it does demonstrate that his athleticism (strength, speed) in comparison to another fighter has proven to be his downfall in the past.

Of course, this is Fedor Emelianenko we're talking about.

Still, taking the argument a step farther, some might also argue that Big Nog looked less athletic than Ricco Rodriguez way back in 2003 when a controversial decision in the PRIDE Fighting Championships organization went his way.

Of course, there are those that believe this whole line of reasoning is crazy and will readily bring up Mark Coleman's once made assertion that Nogueira's grip was outstandingly strong. They might also note that he has held his own quite admirably in an athletic sense against Josh Barnett, one of the more athletic submission fighters in the world today.

Regardless, athleticism is where most believe Frank Mir has the advantage. Heck, on TUF 8 Mir even alluded to it himself when they were playing soccer against one another. And once an assertion is made, it's out there. Thus, Nogueira has something to prove.

On the flip side, Frank Mir has something to prove in his own right and seems to delineate the issue quite well on his own. Going the backdoor route, when he says, "I think that the fact that I'm fighting Nogueira, who I think is one of the most dangerous guys in the world in the heavyweight division, has helped bring me up to a level that I've never seen before," the majority of MMA fans may simply nod their heads, noting that a certain aspect of his game will need to be at a different level in order to win. Whereas his athletic advantage over his UFC 92 opponent seems likely but is debatable, there is no debating what Nogueira has proven over the years. Namely, that he has never been stopped and is very dangerous late in fights.

"I definitely have to get an early lead and keep an early lead and never once make a mistake. You see in the past with Nogueira, he's not the hardest guy in the world to beat in the first or second round. It's just the third and the fourth rounds (where) he starts wearing on you. . ."

Mir then lets you in on the next step in the argument against him in this fight. Where those who believe Mir will win this Ultimate 2008 bout point to his athleticism, the group that believes in Nogueira point to a place that he speaks quite eloquently of.

"And if I was watching how to fight myself, I would make sure the fight lasted long as possible, knowing that Frank Mir has never fought past the third round and the few times that he has it looks really bad; his gas tank (is) questionable, and what would be any different this time? That's what I would be looking for if I was fighting me."

So when UFC 92 goes off, these two Brazilian Jiu Jitsu wizards will both get the chance to answer these pre-fight questions. Will Nogueira have trouble with Mir's athleticism? Will Mir tire in the rounds that Nogueira always proves most capable in? Or, just for grins, if both fighters prove the naysayers wrong, then what kind of fight are we actually in for?

UFC 92 could prove to be one of the best cards that the sport of MMA has ever seen.

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