UFC 140 Preview Part Two: Frank Mir vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

A rematch that seemingly didn’t need to happen this weekend is on as Frank Mir and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira battle again after Mir knocked out “Big Nog” at UFC 92. But with the resurgence of Nogueira, and Mir’s latest win streak getting him back into the title picture, these UFC heavyweights have opted to clash with title implications on the line. And like their last fight, this one will come down to one thing lacking from the former Pride star: head and foot movement.

He may have had a staph infection the last time around but the thing that Big Nog did that lost him the fight was not moving in any way but back and forth. It also cost him against Cain Velasquez and was something Randy Couture didn’t take advantage of. His inability to dictate cage position is what cost him against Velasquez and Mir, who used position to land the finishing blow, and will be the key to the fight.

Both men have fairly similar skill sets but use it differently. Mir is perhaps the best at using his kick-boxing in the heavyweight division to dictate the location of a fight. He may not have the pedigree or one shot stopping power of someone like Alistair Overem but he’s wonderfully skilled at using it to dictate where the fight happens and has enough power in his hands to knock someone out with an overhand punch.

Mir’s key to winning the fight is to make Nogueira fight at his pace and his style, keeping him at a distance with strikes and setting up for a big kill shot. Nogueira may have improved a lot about his game but his chin is rightfully suspect at this point; Mir needs to test it early and often. Nogueira has the edge in straight boxing, however, and has as much power as Mir does. He’s most effective in using combinations and has some of the crispest boxing the division. Mir can’t let Nogueira get inside with a clinch advantage as Nogueira can effective dirty box with anyone in the division. He has to keep it standing and has to use his legs to find range early and often.

If the fight goes to the ground he’s more than capable of hanging with Nogueira, perhaps the most skilled of anyone in MMA in the division on the ground, but even someone with Mir’s level of jiu-jitsu can get submitted by Nogueira. If he winds up in his opponent’s guard Mir won’t be at as much of an advantage as the position would dictate; Nogueira sets up his submission attempts on attempted sweeps and in half guard as well, so engaging in a protracted grappling match isn’t in his favor at this point. It is Nogueira’s, though, and on the ground is where he has the biggest advantage.

Nogueira needs to stay away from letting Mir set up his big shot and his advantage in the fight comes on the ground. Mir may have the most submissions of a UFC heavyweight but Nogueira has the better ground game. He doesn’t have the better wrestling game, as his takedowns aren’t good enough to get Mir on the ground regularly, but if Mir takes it the mat he has the advantage. You might see something like Nogueira pull guard on Mir or allow Mir to use the clinch to get the fight to the ground.

If Nogueira can get this fight to the ground he has his best chance outside of a good combination, but Mir is good enough to keep the fight standing. The longer the fight goes the more Mir has the advantage; if he can drag Nogueira into the third he has his best shot at stopping him or winning a decision. Once he weathers that early storm from Nogueira, who tends to start out fast, he can work his game.

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