On May 26th, UFC heavyweight veteran Frank Mir will walk into the octagon against lunchbox-fisted Junior dos Santos as a huge underdog. Most experts don’t give Frank Mir a chance in hell to even get Junior dos Santos to the ground, let alone win the fight.
I’m not saying definitively that Frank Mir is going to win this fight, but he’s at least got a shot. After all, he just snapped the arm of MMA’s greatest submission artist of all time (Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira) in his last fight with an absolutely brutal Kimura. Let’s just talk about this for a second. Big Nog had never been submitted prior to this fight in his career, which is 29 professional fights deep. This wasn’t Mir catching an unprepared Brock Lesnar in a kneebar or tapping out giant Tim Sylvia (also breaking his arm in the process) with an armbar. The win was a significant achievement for Mir over a respected jujitsu opponent, even if Big Nog is nearing the end of his career.
The best, and almost certain to be used strategy by Mir is to try to somehow maneuver the fight to the ground. I think JDS has made it pretty clear that one does not simply stand with “Cigano” and live to tell about it. The evidence is all there. dos Santos’ donkey punch knockout of Cain Velasquez is obviously his most impressive win. He absolutely tore apart Shane Carwin standing up, who, terrible cardio aside, is one hell of a boxer. Junior dos Santos has absolutely amazing stand-up skills, connecting on a ridiculous 6.8 strikes per minute according to FightMetric.
So, how can Frank Mir go about beating Junior dos Santos? By taking him down and using his world class grappling skills to get to a dominant position. But wait! Junior dos Santos has 85% takedown defense, and Mir only is successful on just over half (51%) of his takedowns. Obtuse thinking would lead you to believe that Mir cannot take dos Santos down, but that’s simply not true. dos Santos has padded that stat by taking significantly less damage than his opponents and avoiding takedowns simply by athleticism rather than technique. Shane Carwin was basically dead and a near-zombie and he successfully took JDS down in the third round of their fight. Velasquez never even got a chance to take down Junior dos Santos (only 27 punches thrown total in the whole fight), and Roy Nelson’s complete lack of athleticism compared to Cigano was evident in his 0-for-7 takedown performance when they fought. Simply put, dos Santos has not been tested enough to definitively say that he will be able to keep the fight standing, gigantic striking advantage aside. Mir has fought almost every single kind of brawl imaginable in the UFC. If he can avoid being knocked out in the first 2 minutes, I have a sneaky suspicion that he could shock a lot of people and steal the belt from dos Santos via submission, or even eek out a decision if he is able to keep dos Santos down.
Another strategy that Mir may employ is to try to pull guard and try to trap dos Santos into being too aggressive whilst ground and pounding. Mir is one of the most dangerous fighters in the UFC on his back, trying to bait JDS into a vulnerable position may be an effective strategy. We saw what happened with Brock Lesnar during their first fight.
No one doubts Junior dos Santos’ offensive ability and talent. I’m just not convinced that he is complete enough as an MMA fighter to maintain the belt for a significant period of time. Mir will be his first tough test in a division that is absolutely stacked with talent. That said, Junior dos Santos does train with some of the best jujitsu practitioners in the world, and his camp seems to think that he is better than Frank Mir on the ground. Mir is obviously trying to bait dos Santos into a ground battle, and judging by these comments by dos Santos’ trainer, perhaps it is working.
Either way, all it takes is one slip up either way for any fight to turn on a dime. That’s what makes the UFC great, and that’s why I’ll be watching on May 26th.
Picture courtesy of http://www.mmajunkie.com (Amazing website by the way, if you want UFC or any MMA news)