UFC 81 Predictions

UFC 81 Predictions

UFC 81 Predictions
by T.O. Whenham

UFC 80 is in the books, so it is never too early to look ahead to the next time a bunch of guys will get into a cage and pound the hell out of each other. It's especially important to release our UFC 81 predictions now since the event is only two weeks away. Taking place on Saturday, Feb. 2, UFC 81, which has been dubbed "Breaking Point," will be an excellent warm up for the Super Bowl the following day.

There are some interesting matches on this card, but make no mistake - this event is about one thing and one thing only. The much-anticipated UFC debut of former WWE champion Brock Lesnar is finally here. It may not be the best card we see that night, but it is the one that will be most talked about leading up to the big day. Here's a look at that fight and the other one that Bodog currently has odds posted for:

Brock Lesnar (-150) vs. Frank Mir (+120) - I held off on previewing this fight for a while so that the line could drop from the totally ridiculous opening price of -205 to this better but still silly level. The idea that a fighter making his UFC debut would be such a heavy favorite when there are about a million unanswered questions is completely ridiculous. The biggest question about Lesnar is whether he can actually make the transition to MMA. He has fought just once, and it was for K1 against a late fill-in after his original opponent had to pull out because of an injury. He won in less than two minutes, but that proved nothing.

There is one thing that we can be sure of with Lesnar - he is a ridiculously good athlete. When he made his ill-advised bid to make the Minnesota Vikings after leaving the WWE in 2004 he put up some incredible performance stats for a guy his size - a 4.7 second 40-yard dash, a 35-inch vertical leap, and a 10-foot standing broad jump. His performances in the wrestling ring were consistently athletic beyond what is typical of heavyweights, and he was the 2000 NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion. In other words, his fighting skills might be questionable, but his athletic skills aren't. It's that that makes this debut so highly anticipated.

The other aspect I question for Lesnar is his commitment. He doesn't have a good track record for sticking with anything for the long term. He left the WWE when he was at the top after just three years in the organization. He said at that time that his dream was to play in the NFL, but he was undisciplined in training camp, skipped practices without permission when he was injured, and he refused an assignment to NFL Europe when the team said his skills needed improvement. If Lesnar truly wants to be a great MMA fighter, then I don't doubt he can be. I just need to be convinced that his pursuit of that goal is sincere.

When it comes to a first opponent in the UFC, Lesnar certainly could have made it easier for himself. Frank Mir not only won the vacant UFC heavyweight title by beating Tim Sylvia, but he broke Sylvia's arm with a vicious armbar in the process. We never got to see what he could do as champion, though, because a motorcycle accident cost him to miss 14 months of action and lose his title. He hasn't been quite the same fighter since his return, with just two wins in four fights. On the plus side, he is a submission specialist that could cause a lot of trouble for Lesnar if he can get a hold of the wrestler. On the other hand, Mir has struggled with stamina, so he won't likely be able to keep up with Lesnar if the match goes long.

How do we deal with this match? I wish I had a few more answers about Lesnar before making a decision. Will he be able to take a serious punch? His ground skills are probably pretty solid from his days of collegiate wrestling, but how will he be standing up? Is his head in the game? Despite those concerns, I believe that the superior athleticism, size and power of Lesnar will come out on top. I just wish the price were a bit better than it is.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (-180) vs. Tim Sylvia (+150) - It seems fitting that Sylvia is again on a card with Mir. Unfortunately, it seems fairly likely that the result will be the same as last time - a loss. This match is for the interim heavyweight championship, and Sylvia, the Maine-iac, has the chance to become just the second man to win the title three different times. To do that, though, he will have to get past Nogueira, who is making just his second UFC appearance, but who is viewed by many to be perhaps the second best heavyweight in the world. The Brazilian is a Jiu-Jitsu specialist who ruthlessly pursues the submission. Both fighters have just three losses in their careers, but the man from Brazil has faced and beaten better competition, is a more intimidating fighter, and has an edge here that is well reflected by the price. Sylvia will put up a good fight, but as much as I don't love betting UFC favorites I think that there is reasonable value in Nogueira.

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