Whether it's an homage to the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix or not, the all-heavyweight main card for UFC 146 is upon us. The card has been rearranged due to injuries. Literally every single fight on the main card has been changed, but the end result is still a quite enjoyable card with some decent star power and high stakes. Not to mention - and this isn't getting much press - the FX and Facebook preliminary portions of the card are rather excellent.
Can Frank Mir win another heavyweight title? Will Velasquez get back to his winning ways after his last setback? What's really left for Roy Nelson at age 35?
I'll attempt to answer these questions with these predictions about UFC 146.
What: UFC 146: Dos Santos vs. Mir
Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
When: Saturday, the Facebook preliminary starts at 6:45 p.m. Eastern, the four-fight FX card starts at 8 and the five fight pay-per-view card starts at 10.
Predictions on the five pay-per-view heavyweight fights below.
Junior dos Santos vs. Frank Mir
Of all the fights on the card, this might be the most difficult to call for an upset. Dos Santos is the favorite here for a very clear reason and as much as I respect Mir's career, I don't see how he gets out of this one smashed to pieces. The champion's striking is just as crisp as Mir's, but the differential in hand speed could not be greater. I suspect Mir's going to get tagged and have difficulty rebounding. Yes, he did so against Nogueira, but only because the Brazilian tried to sit in to a guillotine. Dos Santos will do no such thing. And while I don't buy JDS' contention Mir lacks 'courage' when he gets hit, it is true Mir has shown some issues collecting himself.
Pick: Junior dos Santos
Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva
Everything Silva is good at, Velasquez is better. Silva has underrated wrestling (especially as a level-changer), but it doesn't stack up to Velasquez's. Silva has polished combinations, but so does Velasquez and the AKA-product is both a better endurance and explosive athlete than Silva. Silva might have better technical jiu-jitsu, but does anyone really believe he's going to be able to hold Velasquez down? Listen, at heavyweight, anything can happen. Silva could land one shot that puts Velasquez down and can do so early. Nothing should ever truly surprise anyone in this weight class. But skills win fights and that means Silva is going to have a hard time plying his trade.
Pick: Cain Velasquez
Shane del Rosario vs. Stipe Miocic
A very close fight and a pick for either is absolutely justified. I'm going to lean a little more towards Miocic, though. They're both possessive of commensurate skill sets, although del Rosario is a little more well-rounded. The problem, however, is his layoff. That includes not just getting back on the horse for a fight camp, but regaining quality of life basics after being hit by a drunk driver. The length of time off is one thing, but the time off spent simply bringing his body back to par is worrisome for me.
Pick: Stipe Miocic
If Junior dos Santos can't knock Roy Nelson out, I have a hard time seeing how Herman will fare any better. Nelson's also never been submitted in his fairly extensive MMA career. That leaves Herman the duty to win by decision, something I also take issue with given his gas tank and focus issues. It's not as if Nelson has the most ironed-out game plans heading into bouts and rigidly sticks to them, but he has a general sense of what works for him and doesn't. Herman seems all too willing to play by his opponent's rules and while he's gotten away with it at lower levels of the professional game, that's going to be a much more difficult way to win in the UFC.
Pick: Roy Nelson
Lavar Johnson vs. Stefan Struve
I'm going with the upset here. Now, before I explain why, let's be serious. Struve is perfectly capable of submitting Johnson, who despite having two exciting performances in the Octagon has glaring weaknesses on the ground. Struve is more than capable of taking advantage of that. Yet, despite his declarations he's changed for the better, Struve still doesn't use his length well. He's got no real jab to speak of and is too willing to brawl. Johnson's going to march directly into his face and exchange with him. That's a recipe for an upset.
Pick: Lavar Johnson