March 9, 2012

Clash of the Titans: Sizing Up UFC 146's Gigantic Night of Fights

By Raphael Garcia

Expected to go down in a venue that’s featured many amazing heavyweight boxing matches, UFC 146 will come to you from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, and this event will showcase many of MMA’s top heavyweights. From a former title contender trying to make a comeback, to a heavyweight who’s held gold in many other organizations finally getting his chance at the UFC strap, UFC 146 will be the “heaviest” event in recent memory.

The main event battle features Junior dos Santos defending his heavyweight title against Alistair Overeem. A showdown of two of the sport’s best strikers, dos Santos versus Overeem is going to be very interesting to watch. Junior shocked the fight world when he needed only 64 seconds to put away Cain Velasquez during the UFC’s first event on the Fox network. What was even more amazing is that he did so on an injured knee that required surgery right after. Since coming into the UFC in 2008, “Cigano” has been on a tear through the division, as he has gone 8-0 by defeating some of the biggest names in the weight class. Roy Nelson, Shane Carwin, Fabricio Werdum, Mirko Filipovic, Stefan Struve, Gabriel Gonzaga, and Gilbert Yvel all fell to the Brazilian before he took the title this past November -- quite the resume for a fighter with only 15 bouts to his name.

Overeem, on the other hand, isn’t new to the big stages of MMA. While he may not be a recognizable name to mainstream MMA fans, the “Demolition Man” has been around since 1999. His storied career has included carrying the Strikeforce and DREAM heavyweight titles at the same time, as well as achieving the 2010 K-1 World Grand Prix championship. Many wondered how he would fare once he stepped into the Octagon, but when he did so in December of 2011 he effectively retired Brock Lesnar in highlight reel fashion. At 36-11, his record may not be as impressive as some would expect in a title challenger, but over the course of his career, he has fought people such as Werdum, Mark Hunt, Sergei Kharitonov, Vitor Belfort, and other Hall of Fame talent.

Along with the title fight, this card will feature two former champions meeting to determine the new number one contender. Frank Mir and Cain Velasquez have both been at the top of the heavyweight heap, and both men are looking to get back to that point. This fight will poses an intriguing style matchup that should spark many discussions about how the bout will go.

Velasquez was a rising star that many believed would sit atop the heavyweight rankings for a long time. With a stout wrestling background, rapidly-improving striking, and cardiovascular endurance, he had a combination of tools that few in the weight class possessed. Then shoulder injury sidelined him for more than a year, and we all know what happened when he returned. At 9-1, he is still in the developing stages of what has the makings of a great career, but this bout against Mir will be a tough test of whether he should still be considered one of the top three fighters this division has to offer.

Frank Mir has been considered one of the sport's top heavyweight fighters for a number of years. Even after suffering a fighting slump after his tragic accident in 2004, it seemed as if it was just a matter of time before he would find a way back to the top. Since 2007 he has compiled a 7-2 career mark which saw him win the interim heavyweight title from Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. He contested for a second interim heavyweight championship while Lesnar recovered from health issues, but was thwarted by Shane Carwin at UFC 111. However, since then he’s gone 3-0, including the sickening arm break of Nogueira in their rematch. The BJJ black belt’s striking game has continued to develop, and it will be very interesting to see which style of attack he decides to use against the powerful striker that is Velasquez.

In yet another heavyweight showdown, Roy Nelson will welcome former Strikeforce heavyweight Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva into the Octagon. Silva is coming off an up and down 2011 which saw him defeat Fedor Emelianenko and then get stopped by Daniel Cormier in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. Nelson has had his own struggles as of late, as he carries a mediocre 3-3 UFC record into this fight. He has even made a comical promise on Twitter that if he loses this bout he will cut down to light heavyweight.

In addition to Silva, another former Strikeforce heavyweight will make his Octagon debut against a UFC veteran, as Shane del Rosario meets Gabriel Gonzaga, who returned to the promotion in victorious fasion at UFC 142. In non-heavyweight action, Edson Barboza will look to stay undefeated as he fights Evan Dunham in an important lightweight contest, while middleweights C.B. Dollaway and Jason Miller have to go through each other to keep their spots in the division. UFC 146 is set for Saturday, May 26, live from Las Vegas.


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