By Jaime C. Feal
Tomorrow night, an explosive card headlined by a heavyweight title fight goes down from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV. The main card features five heavyweight fights, as the big boys will be counted on to generate some knockouts and excitement for the fans. The behemoths on the main card are mostly stand up fighters who will bang it out looking for the finish, which is exactly what the UFC wants.
Heavyweight Division (265 lbs.):
Stefan “Skyscraper” Struve (23-5, 7-3 UFC) vs. Lavar “Big” Johnson (17-5, 2-0 UFC)
The 6’11 Struve is something of an enigma at 24 years old. He possesses great stand up and jiu jitsu, but his frame has still not completely filled out to deal with the power of the heavyweight division. On the ground, Struve has a big edge over Johnson. Not only does Struve possess excellent submissions, but Lavar Johnson has shown submission defense to be his Achilles heel. Pat Barry got Johnson down and easily moved into side mount. Shane Del Rosario, and undefeated heavyweight prospect who fights earlier in the night, armbarred Johnson in the first round of a Strikeforce contest. If Struve can get Johnson down, he should be able to finish him.
But that’s a big if. The much more likely scenario is Johnson using his strength to keep the fight standing. Struve cannot let him inside, or he will suffer the same fate as when Roy Nelson knocked him out in 39 seconds. This fight will be a stand-up war, and while Struve would love to use his length and reach to frustrate his opponent, Lavar Johnson will at some point find his way inside and go to town with his thunderous power punches.
Prediction: Lavar “Big” Johnson wins by KO, Round 1.
Heavyweight Division (265 lbs.):
Cain Velasquez (9-1 UFC, 7-1 UFC) vs. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva (16-3, 0-0 UFC)
This fight is very intriguing, because we get to find out how good these two really are. Bigfoot Silva’s signature win was of course over Fedor, and Velasquez was once the heavyweight champ before being dethroned by Dos Santos. The body of work for Velasquez is still relatively small, and he had passed every test until being cold cocked by JDS. Now he faces another stern challenge in Bigfoot Silva, who is coming over from Strikeforce and making his UFC debut. Whoever is able to come out on top in this matchup elevates themselves right to the top of the short list of UFC heavyweight contenders.
Adding further intrigue is the huge size difference. Bigfoot cuts weight to make 265 lbs., while Velasquez is a smaller heavyweight who comes in around 245. If Silva can get on top and use his size and BJJ, he could dominate the fight with strikes and stop Velasquez as he did Fedor. Every fight starts standing, however, and Velasquez is the much crisper striker. Cain will enjoy a speed and technique advantage, and the former Arizona State Wrestler should have enough takedown defense to keep the fight where he wants. Expect Velasquez to come out with a vengeance, rebounding after a subpar performance and getting back on track with an emphatic win.
Prediction: Cain Velasquez wins by TKO, Round 2.
UFC Heavyweight Championship (265 lbs.):
Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos (14-1, 8-0 UFC) vs. Frank Mir (16-5, 14-5 UFC)
JDS hasn’t been in a boring fight yet, and fans shouldn’t expect that to change now. Dos Santos always comes out looking to use his incredible boxing, the best in the heavyweight division, to destroy and stop his opponents in the first round. Frank Mir, the former heavyweight champ, has been in the UFC forever. This doesn’t mean he should be counted out, but quite frankly, his chances are slim to none in this fight. The much more intriguing matchup would have been vaunted striker Alistair Overeem vs. JDS, so we could finally see a technical equal to Dos Santos.
Mir’s only prayer is to get it to the ground. His jiu-jitsu is straight nasty, easily the best UFC heavyweight jiu-jitsu practitioner of all time. When he grabs a hold of something he is trying to break it, and often times he does so. The question is, how does he take JDS down? Cain Velasquez, a decorated collegiate wrestler, failed miserably in his takedown attempt before getting KOd a short time later. JDS never gets taken down, the massive wrestler Shane Carwin couldn’t do so either. Mir has a better chance of JDS slipping and falling than he does taking him down. This fight is bad news for Frank Mir. It’s a stylistic and matchup nightmare for him.
Mir has shown the ability to pull out a Hail Mary submission. That may be his best hope. He could even feign being hurt and fall to the ground, hoping JDS will pounce, only to get caught in a submission by a fully competent Mir. As long as Mir is breathing he is dangerous, and JDS must be very careful not to go to the ground with the former champ. That said, Dos Santos’ blinding speed, accuracy, and power in his hands will do the trick, and stop Mir in the first round.
Prediction: Junior Dos Santos wins by KO, Round 1.