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UFC 92: The Ultimate 2008 Preview

UFC 92 will come to us all live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena on December 27, 2008. It will be called "The Ultimate 2008" for a reason.

Namely, that coming in it looks like the best MMA card of the year.

First, there will be the battle that TUF fans have been waiting for as Frank Mir will take on Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in a bout sure to excite ground fighting enthusiasts. Speaking of bouts that TUF fans have been waiting for, former TUF champions Forrest Griffin and Rashad Evans will also square off in what assuredly will become a battle of wills. Finally, a new and improved Quinton "Rampage" Jackson will take on Wanderlei Silva for the third time. For all of you newer MMA fans out there, it should be noted that the first two bouts went Silva's way in brutal knockout fashion.

Perhaps because of the history, former PRIDE fans are sure to tune in droves. Now let's get to breaking this one down.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (31-4-1) vs. Frank Mir (11-3): Nogueira has shown time and time again throughout his storied MMA career that you can count on two things with him. First, he has one of the greatest hearts that the sport of MMA has ever seen. For reinforcement. . .

In two fights against Fedor Emelianenko, particularly the second one, Nogueira was continually pounded on and yet never stopped trying for that fight ending submission. Against Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, he was pelted with strikes that would've stopped many before finally getting the Croatian fighter to the ground and submitting him. In his most recent battle against Heath Herring, Nogueira was in HUGE trouble of being stopped after sustaining a kick to the face that dropped and dizzied him but somehow persevered through for a decision victory. And then there was his recent fight against Tim Sylvia, one where he was dropped early on by a huge punch and managed to fight through that and several more big shots before taking him to the ground and choking him out.

Which leads us to the second thing you can count on with Nogueira: He's got great jiu jitsu. In fact, he's one of the best submission fighters of all-time. Add in some solid wrestling and standard boxing skills, and you have a guy capable of winning any fight.

That said, Nogueira's lone weakness may be that he is not particularly stellar as an athlete. It's not that he isn't athletic or strong, but there are stronger and more athletic guys out there. Speaking of them. . .

Frank Mir has outstanding submission skills as well, and is widely known to have some of the best jiu jitsu hips in the game. But what makes Mir different is that he is also a very big, strong, and athletic fighter, which is a rarity for a heavyweight submission specialist. Further, he has solid wrestling skills, to include takedowns, takedown defense, and ground control.

In terms of weaknesses, Mir has never really shown striking skills that were above the MMA average, and has gassed in past fights that went into the later rounds. But that has always been overshadowed by the sheer power of his early submission attempts.

When Frank Mir sinks in a submission, call the doctor.

Prediction: In the end, this is a highly intriguing match up. On one hand, you have an athletic submission fighter in Mir looking to prove that he is in fact back from a terrible motorcycle accident that caused him to lose his UFC Heavyweight Championship belt. On the other, you have a more experienced warhorse in Nogueira.

Could Frank Mir pull off an early submission? Yes, he has the stuff that could make that happen against anyone.

Still, on their feet figure that Nogueira's boxing will win out on the scorecards. But this one will eventually end up on the ground where a chess match between two worthy competitors will take place. In the end, though, it's hard to imagine anyone submitting Nogueira (Barnett, another big and athletic submission fighter, couldn't pull it off). Further, five rounds won't even affect a guy like Nogueira; there is absolutely no quit in him. Mir still has something to prove in that regard.

And that could be the difference here.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira wins via submission in round four.

Forrest Griffin (16-4) vs. Rashad Evans (12-0-1): Griffin, like Nogueira mentioned before, has proven to have one of the greatest hearts we've seen in MMA. The difference is that he's been at this for far less time than most that have achieved such a status. Along with his heart and unbelievable toughness, Griffin brings very solid, technical, and diverse striking skills to this match up (those kicks came in handy against Rampage). Not to mention that he possesses more than solid wrestling and ever improving submission skills. In other words, he's the total package as a fighter, even if he probably isn't considered to be at an elite level in any one area.

Except for toughness. By the way, those striking skills of his are approaching the elite level.

Rashad Evans is an outstanding athlete with stellar wrestling skills. Further, he has shown some serious power in spots on his feet against the likes of Chuck Liddell and Sean Salmon (remember that high kick?). Perhaps Evans' heart hasn't gotten the kind of notoriety that it deserves. After all, remember that fight against Brad Imes for the TUF belt? It was a war, and Evans is the one that came out on top.

Beyond the above, Evans is solid technically on his feet. In terms of jiu jitsu, he doesn't have much offensively. But he has never been caught on the ground.

In fact, he has never lost, period.

Prediction: First thing's first?it's going to be hard to knock out either of these guys because they're both tough as nails. Can it happen? Of course. But don't figure on it.

So on the feet look for the guy that can score more points to win out. Griffin's size advantage and solid low kicks may prove to net him more points there. But it's going to be close.

On the flip side, Evans has the better wrestling skills. Though Griffin's jiu jitsu would seem more adept, he won't likely have enough to end the fight via submission if it does go to the ground. So when the fight goes to the canvas guess is that Evans will have more going.

Thus, the question: Will Evans be able to put Griffin on his back enough to win? Further, am I underestimating his striking skills after knocking Chuck Liddell out in devastating fashion?

This is a toss up. But the guess here is that Griffin will be able to stay on his feet most of the time and use angles to score points. That should allow him to pull out a squeaker of a decision.

Forrest Griffin wins via unanimous decision.

Quinton Jackson (28-7) vs. Wanderlei Silva (32-8-1): Wanderlei Silva has pretty good takedown defense. He also has reasonable jiu jitsu skills. But when it comes to power, Muay Thai skills, and the ability to connect when all order breaks down in the ring or cage, he finds himself in an elite class.

He's simply one tough hombre and a tremendous force on his feet.

Quinton Jackson is one of the physically strongest fighters in the world. He also possesses well above average wrestling skills, solid technical skills on his feet, and a whole lot of power there. Jackson doesn't have much in terms of submissions, but his submission defense is strong.

Of course, the interesting fact here is that Wanderlei Silva knocked the man they call "Rampage" out twice while competing for the PRIDE Fighting Championships. And those two knockouts were brutal. So much so, in fact, that after the second one Jackson wasn't the same fighter for quite a while.

Prediction: First, the head game thing is on Silva's side. After all, his two past victories were of a brutal nature.

That said, the Rampage of today is much better on his feet. Further, he fights smarter and comes into his fights in excellent shape. Make no mistake: He will be in shape for this one.

Rampage probably has the wrestling skills to take Silva down and possibly ground and pound his way to victory. That would be the smart move. Will he choose to stand with him instead? That's the question. If he does, there's a chance that he will lose this fight, particularly early during one of those crazy Silva flurries. If not, he may erase some of the worst memories of his fighting life.

Very tough call and the fight on this card that I am most looking forward to. I think Rampage can win if he starts off taking Silva down and pounding away. But somehow I see him wanting to throw down on his feet.

Wanderlei Silva wins via second round TKO. But this one could easily go either way.


Yushin Okami (22-4) vs. Dean Lister (11-5): Okami is one of the strongest fighters in the division. Lister is a great jiu jitsu fighter that has never really been able to exert the kind of dominance he's shown in grappling tournaments in MMA. Okami's strength and takedown defense should allow him to keep this one upright or at the very least stay on top on the ground.

Yushin Okami wins via TKO in round three.

CB Dollaway (7-1) vs. Mike Massenzio (11-2): When this one hits the ground, it should be interesting. Guess is that Massenzio will do well with submissions here in a mild upset.

Mike Massenzio wins via submission in round two.

Cheick Kongo (12-4-1) vs. Mustapha Al-Turk (6-3): Al-Turk has good wrestling and power. Kongo's game right now seems more refined.

Cheick Kongo wins via first round TKO.

Ryo Chonan (15-8) vs. Brad Blackburn (12-9-1): Both of these guys are well rounded and good on their feet. Figure that Chonan's experience against top flight competition will shine through.

Ryo Chonan wins via unanimous decision.

Mike Wessel (6-0) vs. Antoni Hardonk (7-4): Wessel took this fight on short notice. Though he's undefeated, that plus his lack of experience against top flight adversaries may be his downfall.

Antoni Hardonk wins via second round TKO.

Matt Hamill (6-2) vs. Reese Andy (7-2): Both of these guys are strong wrestlers, but Hamill won't have to deal with Rich Franklin's striking this time.

Matt Hamill wins via TKO in round two.

Dan Evensen (10-3) vs. Pat Barry (3-0): Another fight where someone's getting dropped. Figure that it's going to be Evensen.

Pat Barry wins via first round TKO.

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