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Mir Focused on Carwin, but Lesnar rematch is Big Picture

It is no secret that UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar and contender Frank Mir have a bitter relationship, to say the least. However, Mir will have to get through heavyweight powerhouse Shane Carwin (11-0) at UFC 111 before he can enact his dream of regaining the undisputed heavyweight title from Lesnar.

Frank Mir

On Saturday, Mir will have the chance to guarantee himself the next shot at Lesnar with a win over Carwin in a bout, scheduled for five rounds, for the interim heavyweight championship. The fight is scheduled as the co-main event of the evening at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

Fighting out of Las Vegas, Nev., Mir is a former UFC heavyweight and interim heavyweight champion. Mir, a black belt in kenpo karate and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, currently trains with Team Sityodtong in Boston, Massa., under owner and head trainer Mark DellaGrotte. He earned his black belt in BJJ under Ricardo Pires after only five years of training.

Currently holding a professional MMA record of 13-4, Mir is an accomplished grappler and renowned submission artist whose standup has drastically improved with each appearance in the octagon. He is the 2007 NAGA absolute division champion. Of his 13 victories, eight have come by way of submission.

After winning the UFC championship in a match with Tim Sylvia at UFC 48 in 2004, at the age of 25, Mir faced a potentially career ending injury. He was left with a broken femur and torn ligaments in his knee after a motorcycle accident, and was told that he may never walk again, let alone fight. Mir was stripped of his title after 14 months.

In 2006, nearly 2 years later, Mir returned to the octagon. In 2008, Mir shocked the world by submitting rising star Brock Lesnar in the first round at UFC 81, in a match in which he was clearly outsized and not favored to win.

Mir vs. Lesnar I - UFC 81

After running through Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira for the interim heavyweight championship at UFC 92, Mir faced Lesnar in a rematch for the undisputed heavyweight championship in the main event of UFC 100.

Lesnar, a NCAA national champion wrestler, took Mir down with ease in the first round and smothered him, landing effective ground-and-pound. In the second round Mir landed a left elbow followed by a flying knee that rocked Lesnar, but he gave up the takedown in doing so. Lesnar continued to land brutal ground-and-pound from the top position until the match was stopped at 1:48 into the second round via TKO.

In the co-main event of UFC 107, Mir faced off with muay thai and kickboxing ace Cheick Kongo. Mir beat Kongo at his own game, dropping him with a lead left hook less than a minute into the fight. Mir then locked in a guillotine and choked Kongo unconscious, ending the fight at just 1:12 into the first round.

Carwin, a NCAA division II national champion wrestler and boxer with incredible knockout power, presents a huge challenge to Mir. In Carwin’s 11-fight MMA career, he has earned six victories via knockout or TKO and 11 first round stoppages.

With all of his losses coming by way of TKO, Mir is not known for his ability to take a punch, especially while fighting off of his back. Carwin’s wrestling background and powerful punches could prove dangerous to Mir. However, Mir’s submission game will present a threat to Carwin should the fight go to the ground, and Mir is perhaps the more technically sound striker. Mir recently stated that he believes that Carwin is a more dangerous version of Lesnar.

Carwin showed a good chin in his last fight against Gabriel Gonzaga and was able to get off of his back in a matter of seconds. With his 11 career fights lasting just over 12 minutes, it will be difficult for Mir to study Carwin for weaknesses, so he will likely stick to his normal training regimen.

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Live pay-per-view coverage of UFC 111 will begin at 10 p.m. EST

Frank Mir on ESPN – 3/25

Countdown to UFC 111

Inside The Guard, A Versatile Position

Usually the starting point of grappling action in MMA matches, the guard is often overlooked by fans and even fighters, but a fighter using proper technique can prove the position dangerous.

Ortiz inside the butterfly guard of Griffin

The goal of the top fighter in the guard is to utilize ground-and-pound striking while aiming to improve their position. The top fighter also has the option of opening the guard and going for submission attempts.

The goal of the bottom fighter in the guard is most commonly to attempt various submissions off of their back or to escape using sweep techniques to return the fight to their feet. However, there are a few effective strikes from the bottom as well.

There are two basic forms of the guard: the closed guard and the open guard. In the closed guard the bottom fighter has their legs wrapped around the top fighter’s back, as well as their arms in cases. The aim of the closed guard is for the bottom fighter to keep the top fighter’s body as close to theirs as possible, limiting range in order to prevent devastating strikes and set up submission attempts.

In the open guard the bottom fighter uses his legs to control the opponent with the goal being to keep the opponent further away rather than close, because the bottom fighter becomes more vulnerable to strikes. The open guard can be used by the bottom fighter to set up submissions, but is most commonly used to create a sweep in order to return the fight to the feet or transition to the top position.

Alan Belcher trapped in Jason Day's rubber guard at UFC 83. Day lands 10 elbow strikes and 17 unanswered punches

There are various forms of the open guard such as the butterfly guard, the rubber guard, the x-guard, the spider guard, De la Riva guard and 50-50 guard. Arguably the most common in MMA are the butterfly and rubber guard.

The butterfly guard is a position in which the bottom fighter’s legs are hooked with their ankles inside the top fighter’s thighs. This allows for good control of the top fighter’s movements and distancing and allows for effective sweeps.

The rubber guard, created by Eddie Bravo, is gaining popularity and becoming more common in the MMA world. The bottom fighter uses a leg to trap the top opponent in their guard, opening up possibilities for submissions, sweeps and even effective striking from the bottom. Dream lightweight champion Shinya Aoki has developed one of the most effective rubber guards in MMA along with UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn.

The main goal of the top fighter in the guard is to advance his position. However, striking can be effective. Tito Ortiz is among one of the most effective strikers from the guard in MMA, in great part due to his devastating elbows. Elbows, hammer fists, closed fist strikes, and even Royce Gracie style palm strikes can cause damage from the guard.

Mousasi KO's Jacare via up-kick

Fighters inside an opponents open guard also have the option of standing in the guard to attempt various leg locks, such as knee bars, heel hooks and achilles locks. However, this can make them vulnerable to commonly the most devastating strike from the bottom guard.

Up-kicks have proven to be extremely effective in MMA and are a good tool for fighters on their back. Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi knocked out Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in dramatic fashion with a single upkick in the final round of the Dream middleweight grand prix at Dream 6 on September 23, 2008.

The bottom fighter has a clear advantage in the submission game from the guard. The most common submissions pulled off from guard are the guillotine, arm bar, triangle choke and kimura. Other popular submissions are the omoplata and gogoplata, but these techniques are most often used as a sweep to simply transition to the top or a standing position. However, they can be very effective when used from the rubber guard.

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The top fighter must aim to improve his position above all else while in the guard. A ground-and-pound fighter must move out of harms way against a submission specialist rather than being contempt to strike from the guard. Mark Coleman learned this lesson not once, but twice when he was submitted from within WAMMA and former Pride heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko‘s guard during Pride FC competition in 2004 and then again in 2006.

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A Legend is Stopped, Others Rebound at UFC 110

Rising star Cain Velasquez defeated the legendary Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in dominating fashion in the main event of UFC 110 on Saturday to secure a spot as a top contender for the UFC heavyweight title.

Velasquez v. Nogueira

The two ground specialists exchanged in a brief standup battle in the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia.  Velasquez landed a combo, which sent Nogueira to the canvas and he quickly followed up with vicious ground and pound that left Nogueria unconscious.  Referee Herb Dean called for a knockout stoppage, putting an end to the contest at 2:20 in the first round.

“We’ll see what happens with Mir and Carwin – see who wins that – and if the guys come out unscathed, they’ll fight for the title,” said UFC president Dana White at the post-fight press conference.  ”If not, then Cain Velasquez will get that spot.”

Velasquez’s performance earned him “Knockout of the Night” honors along with a $50,000 bonus.

The co-main event featured another legendary brazilian fighter and Pride FC champion in Wanderlei Silva, who squared off against Michael Bisping.  The contest saw both fighters standing and exchanging for the majority of the fight.

Bisping took Silva down several times in the first and second rounds, but was unable to keep him down once on the ground.  Silva caught him in a tight arm-in guillotine off of a Bisping takedown attempt with about 15 seconds left in the second round, but was unable to force a tap.

Silva v. Bisping

Bisping landed two fouls which briefly stopped the action in the middle of the third round: first a kick to the cup of Silva and then a finger to the eye.  Silva took the offensive, coming out swinging for the fences in the last two minutes of the fight.  Silva rushed Bisping and landed a right hook to drop him just before the final bell.

Silva was awarded a unanimous decision with all three judges scoring the contest 29-28 in his favor.

Bisping disagreed with the official decision. “It’s a close fight, but personally, I thought I won rounds one and two,” he said during the post-fight conference.  He also stated that he would love a rematch with Silva in the future.

Australian native George Sotiropoulos defeated Joe Stevenson by unanimous decision in a thrilling and extremely technical match.  Sotiropoulos controlled the fight on the feet, dropping Stevenson in the second and put him in several dangerous situations on the ground utilizing his superior submission game.

All three judges scored the contest 30-27 in a dominant victory for Sotiropoulos.  The match was named the “Fight of the Night” and earned both fighters a $50,000 bonus.

The Ultimate Fighter season eight winner Ryan Bader took down and controlled Keith Jardine on the ground in the first round of the second main-card fight.  Jardine controlled the second round with strong punches and leg kicks and was able to stuff the takedown attempts of Bader.

Bader landed a right hand that hurt Jardine in the third and quickly followed up with a flying knee to the body and a left hook, which dropped Jardine to the canvas.  Referee Josh Rosenthal called for a knockout stoppage, putting an end to the fight at 2:10 of the third round.

Cro Cop v. Perosh

In the first main card fight Croatian legend and Pride FC champion Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic faced overmatched Australian native Anthony Perosh.  Cro Cop was originally scheduled to face former IFL champion Ben Rothwell who was forced to withdraw just days before the event due to illness.  Perosh took the fight on two days notice.

Cro Cop controlled the fight, landing devastating strikes in the standup and denying Perosh’s numerous takedown attempts.  Perosh continually went for the takedown only to end up in Cro Cops sprawl and to receive brutal ground and pound.

Cro Cop landed a powerful elbow from inside the guard, opening up a cut above Perosh’s eye with about a minute left in the second round.  Cro Cop was awarded a TKO (cut) victory at the end of the second round after a dominant performance.

The “Submission of the Night” along with a $50,000 bonus was awarded to Chris Lytle who countered a takedown from Brian Foster to lock in a kneebar, putting an end to the preliminary card bout at 1:41 of the first round.

UFC 110 marked the organizations first trip to Australia and proved extremely successful for the UFC.  The event saw the second-fastest ticket sell-out in the 16-year history of the UFC.  Dana White announced his intentions to return, to Melbourne, Australia for an event in 2011, during the post-fight press conference.

UFC 110 – FULL

Styles Make Fights – TUF 9 Finale: Sanchez vs. Guida (Freestyle vs. Freestyle)

In the main event of the TUF 9 finale, the matchup between Diego Sanchez and Clay Guida turned into a fantastic battle of wills, with Sanchez coming out on top by a hair and moving on to a potential title shot at 155.

Diego Sanchez won a great split over Clay Guida

Diego Sanchez won a great split over Clay Guida

Both men exploded out of the gate with punches, with Sanchez rocking Guida and throwing furious strikes until Guida finally stopped the punishment with a takedown. Sanchez switches to rubber guard and Guida stood up, but Sanchez throws a huge headkick that drops Guida. A flying knee by Sanchez connects but Guida incredibly does not go down. A short clinch leads to Sanchez getting the trip takedown, but Guida amazingly gets up as the round ends.

Guida executes a takedown at the start of round two, and Sanchez responds with elbows from bottom. A kimura attempt from bottom fails, and the crowd chants his name. Sanchez uses elbows from bottom to set up rubber guard again, but then continues to throw big elbows from guard. Guida, however, is relentless and grinds Sanchez into the ground as round two ends.

With all to fight for in round three, Guida continued to push forward and both men land punches on each other. A failed takedown by Guida leads to back control by Sanchez, but he slips off while trying to lock in an arm triangle. Guida lands on top and defends a Sanchez kimura attempt. Sanchez transitions to armbar but loses it as the round ends. At the end of the fight, the score is truly too close to call, but a split decision victory is awarded to Diego Sanchez.

Guida showed once again that he had a chin of steel, but skill-wise, Sanchez just outclassed him on this night, using his reach advantage to club Guida with strikes while delivering as much punishment with elbows from bottom as Guida did to him from top. Guida’s standup never really threatened Sanchez, however, and with Sanchez’s berserker elbows from bottom, that made all the difference.

Styles Make Fights – TUF 9 Finale: Johnson vs. Wilks (Freestyle vs. Freestyle)

In the welterweight finale for TUF 9, a bad-blood-barnburner turned into a ground clinc as James Wilks ran through Demarques Johnson to capture the welterweight contract and ensure a UK sweep of TUF 9.

James Wilks dominated Demarques Johnson and finished the UK sweep

James Wilks dominated Demarques Johnson and finished the UK sweep

Both men came out swinging early, and Wilks got the best of the early shots with a jab and a knee. Wilks continued to relentlessly pressure Johnson with knees to the body until the fight went to the ground, with Wilks on top. A heelhook attempt by Wilks is foiled by Johnson, who works his way to top position. Wilks, however, kept working on the leg with “leg compression lock” (see Rafael Dos Anjos vs. Tyson Griffin for a visual), but Johnson escaped. Wilks then failed to finish again with a triangle, but continued to throw Johnson around the cage. Wilks tried to finish with a rear nake choke, and after a long struggle, Johnson got one of his arms trapped and tapped with seconds left in the round.

Like Ross Pearson before him, Wilks executed the perfect gameplan, coming out aggressive and getting straight into Johnson’s face. Johnson never found his rhythm and could only react to what Wilks was doing, eventually leading to the submission finish.

Styles Make Fights – TUF 9 Finale: Winner vs. Pearson (Freestyle vs. Freestyle)

In the TUF 9 lightweight finale, Ross Pearson upset Andre Winner to win the all-UK lightweight final.

The first round was a tentative and somewhat tedious affair, as both fighters pawed at each other before clinching against the cage for most of the round. It seemed that both fighters respected each striking too much, and neither tried to throw until the final minute of the round, where a low blow time-out was followed by a brief flurry from both men, with Winner edging slightly ahead as the round ended.

Ross Pearson bested Andre Winner to capture the TUF 9 lightweight title

Ross Pearson bested Andre Winner to capture the TUF 9 lightweight title

Pearson turned up the aggression in round two, but the match then halted back into the clinch again, with Pearson still trying to push the pace. Winner, however, kept Pearson pinned against the cage until the final minute again, where Pearson was able to separate and throw some good strikes as the round ended.

The fight finally opened up in the third round, where Pearson again was able to break through Winner’s clinch and throw strikes. Winner was able to survive and throw some big hits of his own, but as the round wound down Pearson refused to stop, throwing punches and knees which had Winner on the back foot and taking the UD victory.

Pearson did exactly what he needed to take the fight away from the favorite Winner. He pushed the pace of the striking and shrugged off Winner’s attempts to control the tempo through clinching. Ultimately, Winner’s reluctance to strike with Pearson or go for a takedown led to his downfall, as the all-action Pearson outstruck him at every opportunity.

A King Regains His Crown

Boxing is a sport of controversy and drama, and Miguel Cotto’s showdown with Joshua Clottey last Saturday at Madison Square Garden did not disappoint. Cotto took the win with a decisive yet controversial unanimous decision , and being that the Garden is as close as it gets to a “home game” for Cotto, many believe that he was handed a gift in a fight that could have easily gone the other way.

Both men boxed cautiously at the center of the ring in round 1, establishing their jab. While Clottey’s jab was a bit more powerful and had a 3-inch reach advantage,  Cotto was the aggressor. To everyone’s surprise however, in the last five seconds of the round, Cotto scored a flash knockdown with a jab flush on Clottey’s chin. The crowd of 17,734, — largely Puerto Rican, and there to chant for their country’s fighting pride, on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day Parade – erupted in a roar not even comparable to a full Beaver Stadium. It was a moment that would set the tone for the rest of the bout: controversial, loud, and full of excitement.

Rounds 2 and 3 picked up the pace a little bit. As both fighters continued to get the feel for one another, they became more aggressive, following up their jabs with combinations. Clottey was the aggressor in round 2, demonstrating his incredible ability to fight defensively, which against a fighter like Cotto who attacks the body and creates a lot of open shots is hard to do.  Not only did he prove to fans that he was on the same level as Cotto, but that he actually could beat Cotto. In round 3, Cotto must have realized these things himself, because he turned up the flame, and came out as the aggressor. The action was toe-to-toe and blow- for- blow for all of the round. With 20 seconds to go in the round, they clashed heads, leaving Cotto with a severe cut over his left eye, causing a flow of blood into his eyes, which would persist for the remainder of the 12 round fight.

Cotto’s bad cut changed the tempo for the rest of the fight. In the 4th round, realizing Cotto’s cut could have the fight stopped at any minute Clottey tried to take advantage, aiming for it and trying to open it up, and each tried even harder now to take the other out. The fans realized this too, and as the 4th round begun, every shot that Cotto landed triggered a roaring response from the crowd. Despite his cut and blood in his eyes, Cotto began to establish a rhythm, landing some very thudding body shots, and then pivoting to avoid Clottey’s offensive barrage.

Round 5 fed off the energy of a great 4th round, and both men quickly got back to work. Cotto continued to viciously attack the body, as he is notorious for doing. However, Clottey’s faster hands became apparent, as he began to nail Cotto with counter- punching. The round continued at this pace until there was a minute left to go, and both men clinched up in the corner. As Cotto managed to slip out the clinch, body weights shifted and Cotto got leverage, slamming Clottey  to the floor face first, in what seemed to be an unintentional body slam. Even though it was clearly not a punch that sent Clottey down, the crowd erupted at the sight of their hero standing over his opponent face- first on the canvas. He laid flat for a few seconds, and it became clear that Clottey had hurt his knee, as he grabbed it with his glove and got up limping. After given an ample amount of time to walk it off, the rest of the round proceeded as normal.

As round 6 began, both men came out with a new fire in their hearts. Clottey, irritated from the body slam, and Cotto, fearful of having points deducted from him, and bleeding now more profusely than before, turned up the action to the next level. About a minute into the round, Cotto got the better of an exchange, slamming Clottey with a series of hooks that sent him into the corner. Once Cotto knew he had him vulnerable in the corner, he poured on the offense, landing punches in bunches to the body, then to the head, and then back down to the body. Clottey could do little to retaliate besides hold up a strong guard, and have a big heart.

For the remainder of most of the fight, Cotto danced around the ring, keeping distance, throwing  a few combinations, and keeping it moving. Clottey was clearly the aggressor in these rounds, but did not do enough to take advantage of the situation. Clottey was landing shots on a defensive Cotto, but not enough and certainly not hard enough to take the fight from Cotto. Rallied on by the very vibrant crowd, Cotto executed the rest of the fight to a T, keeping distance from Clottey’s shots and his now open flesh wound, the source of a constant stream of blood down his face, but landing enough shots to win rounds.

As the fight came to a close in the final round, both fighters knew it was going to be a close one, and each knew they needed to take the 12th round to seal their win. Clottey, continuing to be the aggressor, became almost too aggressive and too anxious as he began to get nailed with well timed Cotto counters. Two minutes into the round, Cotto hit Clottey hard in the back of the head with a hook, again an unintentional mistake, in which Cotto’s points came into question. As the round came to a close, in the final minute both men rallied, and once again cheered on by the crowd, Cotto got the best of their exchange, sealing the victory.

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Both men fought with exceptional heart and unstoppable will. Both are true champions by any measure and both have bright futures. While, Clottey’s future is uncertain for now, he surely will not be forgotten about, as he fought one of his career defining fights. There are definitely big fights on the horizon for him. Cotto how ever, can look forward to a showdown with a superstar. There is talk of a bout between Cotto and pound for pound king Manny Pacquiao, or perhaps a rematch with Shane Mosley, which would be a huge fan pleaser. One thing is for sure, Cotto has put any ghosts from the Margarito loss behind him, and if anything, was made stronger because of it.

The Ultimate Fighter 9 Big Board: Episode 12 – Wilks vs. Lester II

In the last episode of The Ultimate Fighter 9: US vs. UK, foes-turned-friends James Wilks and Frank Lester once again faced off, this time with a spot in the welterweight finale on the line. In the end, Team UK’s Wilks once again put Team USA’s Lester away to advance to the finale and face Demarques Johnson for TUF 9′s welterweight title. In the country-versus-country tally, Team UK enters the finale with a 3 fighters as opposed to USA’s single one.

TUF: Season 9 UK vs USA

TUF: Season 9 UK vs USA

The first round was a slow and tentative affair where Wilks used his reach advantage to pick away at Lester. The clinches against the fence provided nothing of note, while Wilks seemed fine with dropping his hands and inviting Lester to try and take a swing at him.

An accidental low blow started off the second round, but after that, Wilk’s straight jab continued to hurt Lester. Lester’s hands couldn’t match Wilk’s reach, and Wilks’ strikes continued to get through Lester’s defense. Lester managed to keep the fight standing and defended the takedown well enough, but Wilks was content to initiate and let the jabs add up on Lester as the round ended.

Lester came out swinging in round three, but Wilks caught him early and once again pushed Lester up against the fence. In a case of deja vu, Wilks made Lester feel his knees once again, until Lester could take no more punishment and was saved by the ref.

It was a well-executed game plan by Team UK and Wilks, who exploited Lester’s obvious lack of technique and fatigue from his previous fights. Wilks never tried too hard for the takedown, but was instead confident enough in his striking to finish Lester without taking much damage.

TUF Finale – With both finale matchups now set, who will walk out with the UFC contracts?

Lightweight

The Favorite – Andre Winner

The Underdog – Ross Pearson

Winner will enter the TUF 9 ligthweight finale as the slight favorite due to his size and experience advantage. In a battle between two strikers who can also finish with submissions, Winner will need to impose his will on the smaller man both standing and on the ground. For Pearson, the key will be to once again push the pace and try to harass Winner into losing his composure.

Welterweight

The Favorite – Demarques Johnson

The Underdog – James Wilks

Johnson will enter the finale as a slight favorite against Wilks. Johnson seems to have a complete game, but as his semi-final fight showed, he can be rattled by strikes that come fast and early. Wilks will have to bring some ruthless aggression and not let Johnson settle into any kind of game plan. Both men are good on the ground, so stand-up prowess might make all the difference in this matchup.

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