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MMA Fastball: Officially on the Frank Mir Bandwagon

I'm officially on the Frank Mir bandwagon: Before the motorcycle accident that changed Mir as a fighter, he was one of the most athletically gifted and dangerous submission fighters in the world. But things changed after the accident, at first in a negative sense.

But now he's won three straight fights, looking like he had previous to his leg injury on the ground against both Antoni Hardonk and Brock Lesnar. However, against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 92, we saw something else. Namely, the kind of proficient, more than one punch at a time striking that truly skilled stand up fighters utilize.

Breaking it down, Mir's ground skills look as good as ever, he's showing far improved striking skills over what he did previously, and he has the kind of perspective that fighters that coming back from a terrible experience brings. After this win, it's impossible to continue to say that Mir hasn't beaten anyone since the accident.

Actually, he's the only guy that has defeated the last two UFC heavyweight champions (Nogueira and Lesnar). And all that adds up to 'scary' for UFC heavyweights.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira a different fighter since Herring: Take out the tape of Nogueira vs. Heath Herring for the third time at UFC 73: Stacked. He was clearly pumped up, ready to take on the world. His hands were fast; he pounded away at Herring initially. It was exactly what we were used to seeing from this mixed martial arts legend that had put in a significant amount of time training with the Cuban National Boxing Team.

Then he got hit by that Herring kick. Sure, he came back to win; Nogueira's heart is as big as the planet. Still, he hasn't looked the same since on his feet.

Reinforcing this, Nogueira looked confused and hesitant against Tim Sylvia on his feet and paid for it by getting knocked to the canvas. It wasn't until they hit the ground that the old Nogueira showed up. You could've chalked that up to Sylvia's prowess until UFC 92, when Minotauro looked every bit as confused and outclassed on his feet against Frank Mir.

This is to take nothing away from Mir or Sylvia. . . But previous to that Herring fight you always knew what you could count on with Big Nog. One has to think that the huge shot he sustained in that bout may have changed him as a fighter (been one too many in a career of bloody battles). Speaking of getting hit with big shots that have a negative impact, he's not the only one.

Wanderlei Silva isn't the same anymore: Silva is still one of the most aggressive, scary offensive strikers in the game. But he too was changed from a big shot. Many point to the Cro Cop debacle, where he was knocked out in dramatic fashion by a high kick, but actually they should look further back to his fight with Mark Hunt (both of the aforementioned, by the way, were against heavyweights when the lighter Silva decided to take them on). Hunt dropped Silva hard in their fight. The Axe Murderer barely escaped without adding a knockout loss to his record.

Since that fight, Silva is only 5-5 and has been knocked out on three occasions. Both he and Nogueira have been through so many wars. Those big strikes they've recently received may have just added too much to the cumulative effect.

Rampage does something that's very hard to do: Regardless, what Rampage did to Silva at UFC 92 is hard and rare. Any professional fighter will tell you that coming back from a knockout is hard. Well how about two knockouts, one a rather devastating one, at the hands of the same opponent?

The fact that he was able to score what in essence was a one punch knockout against The Axe Murderer is a testament to his belief in himself. Rampage is the one that does the intimidating these days.

Rashad Evans is still underrated: Evans is one of the best fighters to fly under the radar ever. Eventually, people will give him his just due, but only because he forces them to. The guy has excellent cardio, submission defense, technical striking, power, and athleticism. The only thing missing is upper level submission offense, and that's better than most fighters can say.

Diego Sanchez to lightweight: To be honest, this is a scary proposition for UFC lightweights. Sanchez's strengths as a wrestler will only be magnified in this division. It also opens up some interesting match ups; one against B.J. Penn and another against Kenny Florian in a TUF 1 Championship rematch.

But first the always-tough Joe Stevenson is out there. If Sanchez experiences any negative effects from the drop in weight, Stevenson is sure to exploit them.

Justin Levens and Justin Eilers: The MMA community was hit hard recently by the deaths of Justin Levens and then soon after, Justin Eilers. Though their deaths happened in very different ways; they were both tragic in their own way. What a shame!

Pat Miletich hits like a truck: We certainly didn't get to see all of Pat Miletich's skillset when he took on Thomas Denny at Adrenaline II, as it was a pretty one-sided victory. But we sure did get to see his power.

He's got more of it on his feet than he did in his prime.

Rich Franklin vs. Dan Henderson at UFC 93: This fight was about to be my next Dream Match Up article (a what if PRIDE vs. UFC column) when PRIDE fell. It's great to see that we're all going to get to witness it for real.

Speaking of UFC 93, we'll finally get to see Mauricio "Shogun" Rua: Rua will take on Mark Coleman, the man that started his injury streak back in PRIDE, at UFC 93 in Dublin. Expect some rust for sure, as this guy hasn't fought in awhile and has been going through injuries like water. But it will be fun to see both him and "The Hammer" fight once again.

By the way, there's just a little bit of bad blood in this one. The last time these two threw down there was a brawl between both camps in the ring afterwards.

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