How good was Frank Mir's 2008?
Mir, the new UFC interim heavyweight champion, had two fights this year. In one, he beat the biggest, strongest fighter to come along in MMA in years, Brock Lesnar. In the other, he finished the hardest fighter to stop in MMA history, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
And it took Mir less than nine minutes, total, to beat them both.
Mir's victory over Nogueira last night at UFC 92 was simply dominant. I scored the first round 10-9 for Mir, but I could have easily scored it 10-8, which one of the judges at cageside did. The second round contained some of the best stand-up fighting Mir has ever displayed, with punches and kicks eventually knocking Nogueira to the ground, where Mir punched him repeatedly until the fight was stopped.
Only three men -- Fedor Emelianenko, Josh Barnett and Dan Henderson -- had ever beaten Nogueira, and all of them did it by decision. None of them destroyed Nogueira the way Mir did last night.
So Mir has the distinction of being the only fighter ever to stop Minotauro. And, of course, he has the distinction of being the only fighter ever to beat Brock Lesnar in Lesnar's much shorter MMA career. Now Mir and Lesnar will have their second fight, which will unify the UFC heavyweight title.
That's going to be huge. I don't know if Mir-Lesnar II can top 1 million pay-per-view buys, as Lesnar's victory over Randy Couture did, but if the UFC promotes it the right way, it could come close. It's been a good year for Mir, and for the UFC. But 2009 might just be better.
My favorite sights of UFC 92:
1. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson going over to his fallen opponent, Wanderlei Silva, to make sure he was OK after Rampage's brutal knockout win. These two guys hate each other, but Rampage is a classy athlete.
2. Matt Hammil getting his hand raised after his second-round TKO win over Reese Andy. Hammil is one of the good guys in MMA, and any time he wins a fight, it's a good thing to see.
3. The smile on Rashad Evans' face after he beat Forrest Griffin for the UFC light heavyweight title. In the last four months, Evans has beaten two of the UFC's best fighters and biggest stars (Griffin and Chuck Liddell), and his wife has given birth to a baby girl. The look on Evans' face said, "Could my life get any better?"
Knockout of the Night: An easy choice: Rampage, for his brutal one-punch knockout of Wanderlei Silva.
Submission of the Night: There were no submissions last night. Eight fights ended by KO or TKO, and the other two were decisions. So no Submission of the Night. When's the last time that happened?
Fight of the Night: Forrest Griffin vs. Rashad Evans.
Jackson, Griffin and Evans got $60,000 bonuses.
Quotes of UFC 92:
"I'm ready to get my title back. Everybody wants to be the champion; everyone wants to be the best. But to be quite honest, I'd rather go and fight Forrest. That's the fight that haunts me when I go to sleep. I have nightmares about it. That's the fight. I won the belt. I was the champion. But I'd like to get Forrest first, but it's up to the UFC." -- Rampage Jackson, saying he'd rather get a rematch with Forrest Griffin than a title fight with Rashad Evans.
"I faced such demons after my (motorcycle) wreck. To come back from that, I'm proof you can do things. I didn't even think I could beat Nogueira." -- Frank Mir.
"I'm looking for Frank Mir. I need a rematch with Frank." -- Brock Lesnar, saying before the Mir-Nogueira fight that he'd prefer to fight Mir. He'll get his wish.
Most people think of the Dropkick Murphys song "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" as "That song from The Departed," but I think UFC fans are starting to think of it as "That song Forrest Griffin uses as his entrance music." There's just something about that song that suits Griffin perfectly.
Around the Web
"Of all the possible match-ups involving combinations of Couture, Mir, Lesnar, and Nogueira [...] Mir vs. Lesnar would be by far the most appealing, money-making match-up that the promotion could hope for. It's a re-match that had to happen sometime. How perfect is it for UFC that Mir vs. Lesnar will happen in the Spring of '09 for the Heavyweight crown? Perfect fight - Lesnar wins, he gets redemption. Mir can go into that fight claiming he's the real champion and if he wins the re-match, his credibility skyrockets. Remember, in UFC, the fighter who won the first fight wins a re-match around 70% of the time." Zach Arnold, FightOpinion.com.
The UFC was criticized by many (including yours truly) for deciding to put the C.B. Dollaway-Mike Massenzio fight on the televised portion of the card, instead of the Yushin Okami-Dean Lister fight. But it turned out to be the right move, as Okami won a dull unanimous decision.
Referee Steve Mazzagatti should have stopped the Cheick Kongo-Mostapha Al-Turk fight sooner. With 50 seconds to go in the first round, Kongo had Al-Turk on the ground and was raining blows on him. By the 37-second mark Kongo had opened a big gash on Al-Turk's forehead with an elbow, and it was clear that Al-Turk had no chance. But Mazzagatti allowed Al-Turk to take punishment for 15 more seconds before finally stopping the fight with 22 seconds to go.
In a night with no submissions, the best ground work was done by Dollaway, who got rocked with a Massenzio punch and then almost submitted by a guillotine, only to turn things around completely, get into full mount and pound Massenzio out. The 25-year-old Dollaway, the runner up in Season 7 of The Ultimate Fighter, still has a lot of work to do before he's a complete fighter. But I could see him fighting for a title some day, just like Ultimate Fighter winners Forrest Griffin and Rashad Evans.
Both Rampage Jackson and Cheick Kongo have been training at the Wolfslair MMA Academy in England, and both looked as good as ever last night. UFC 92 was a feather in Wolfslair's cap.
Wanderlei Silva is the greatest knockout artist in MMA history, but he's now 1-4 in his last five fights, and he's been knocked cold in three of those four losses. I think Silva should move down to 185 pounds. He doesn't have the chin to deal with the bestlight heavyweight strikers anymore.
Fight I Want to See Next:
Other than Mir-Lesnar II, of course, the fight I most want to see next is Rashad Evans vs. Rampage Jackson for the light heavyweight title. Rampage might get his wish for another fight with Griffin, though, and that'd be great, too. Griffin is sure to have a good light heavyweight fight ahead of him; the UFC would love to put him in the Octagon with Chuck Liddell, although Griffin might not be ready to go in March, when Liddell wants to fight next. Another fight I'd like to see next is Nogueira vs. Couture. And I'll be curious to see where Kongo goes from here. UFC 92 was a good night of fights, but the best thing about it is how many good fights it set up for 2009.