A Tale of Two Comebacks: Nogueira, Mir Survive


Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira throws a right hand at Tim Sylvia during their championship fight at UFC 81: Breaking Point. Photo property of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira became the first mixed martial artist in history to hold championship gold inside the confines of both the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the PRIDE Fighting Championships as he submitted former two-time champion Tim Sylvia to win the interim UFC heavyweight belt at last night’s UFC 81: Breaking Point.

The 10,583 inside the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas saw an eventful first round where Sylvia shook off a right hand flush to his face to knock Nogueira down with a right of his own. Sylvia pounced on Nogueira but was unable to finish him off. The Brazilian maintained his composure and scored a swift combination and a late takedown during the final seconds of the first round.

The pace slowed considerably heading into the second stanza. Sparing a near takedown by Nogueira, the round took place on the feet the entire time. Each fighter landed their fair share of jabs and combinations throughout the five minutes. Sylvia looked to land a pair of rights that hurt Nogueira with under two minutes left in the round but the slow pace provided very little opportunity to capitalize on.

A right hand by Sylvia caused Nogueira to pull guard at the beginning of the third round. The skilled ground specialist quickly swept Sylvia, transitioned to side-control, and then locked in a guillotine as his opponent tried to stand up. Sylvia didn’t put up much of a fight and quickly tapped out, giving Nogueira the interim title.

“He’s a true heavyweight,” Nogueira said of Sylvia during a post-fight interview. “He’s a giant. I got in many hard punches in this fight. I was waiting for a good opportunity to put him on the ground. I always try at least one submission. If that doesn’t work, I go for a second and it worked tonight.”

Although visibly discouraged after the fight, Sylvia showed a good amount of respect for his opponent’s efforts.

“It’s Nogueira,” Sylvia said. “Every fight he’s in, he gets his ass kicked for the first ten minutes. You start getting comfortable fighting him and next thing you know, he catches you in something. The guy is a legend in the sport.”

Nogueira also pleaded for current champion Randy Couture to return from his resignation from the promotion in order to unify the belts and put on a great fight for the fans. Only time will tell if Couture will continue his stance or give in to the demands of Nogueira and many other UFC officials.

In the co-main event, former heavyweight champion Frank Mir withered a barrage of punishment from one-time amateur and professional wrestling champion Brock Lesnar, before submitting the genetic monster with a patented kneebar midway through the first round.

Lesnar took Mir down only seconds into the fight after catching a missed body kick by Mir. Lesnar had Mir in trouble only seconds into the fight with an onslaught of damaging rights and hammer fists.

In a brief moment of surprise and confusion, referee Steve Mazzagatti stepped in to stop the bout but ended up making a questionable call in deducting a point from Lesnar for striking the back of Mir’s head.

The fight was restarted on the feet but Lesnar quickly sent things back down to the mat after dropping Mir with a straight right. Once again, Lesnar had Mir in danger with another assault of punches. Mir attempted an armbar but was forced to let go after finding that he couldn’t control the massive arms of the former WWE superstar. After Lesnar stood up, Mir transitioned a failed second armbar attempt into a kneebar.

Despite showing very little signs of pain, Lesnar quickly tapped out.

“He ended up pulling out of the armbar,” said Mir when asked to describe the end of the fight by UFC color commentator Joe Rogan. “Marc Laimon showed me that once that happens, the leg usually stays stationary so I switched to a kneebar and caught him in it. Let’s face it, I had Brock Lesnar, that monster over there, dropping elbows on my head and I still managed to pull through.”

Despite losing in his debut, Lesnar assured everyone that he was in mixed martial arts for the long haul and would be back to fight again another day.

“I came out trying to pressure Frank,” Lesnar said. “We questioned his heart. I was just trying to get a bunch of shots in on him. I left my leg there. We’ve been practicing that but he caught me, no excuses. He’s a top-notch jiu-jitsu guy. He got me tonight and he’s a better fighter. You win some, you lose some. I’d like to win them all, but you can’t.”

Undercard Action

Former middleweight title contender Nate Marquardt picked up a key win in his quest to climb back to the top as he dominated veteran Jeremy Horn over two rounds before finally submitting the ground wizard less than two minutes into the second round.

Marquardt controlled the fight from the start, literally tossing Horn down to the mat and punishing him with an effective ground and pound assault. Horn attempted a variety of submissions but Marquardt easily moved out of the holds.

A couple of failed takedown attempts resulted in Horn taking some unnecessary shots and even getting caught in a D’arce choke at one point. Horn turned up the heat towards the end of the first round when he caught Marquardt in a rare omaplata and even transitioned to two straight gogoplatas, an unheard of series of events.

Marquardt slipped while throwing a high kick to start the second round, allowing Horn to gain top position. Horn landed an elbow that cut Marquardt open but ended up getting caught in a guillotine choke once the two stood back up. Horn put up quite a fight but ended up being forced to tap out after the two fell to the ground, allowing Marquardt to put even more leverage into the submission.

When asked about his bout-winning guillotine after the fight, Marquardt admitted that he saw the submission coming the entire time.

“Every time that he shot in, I realized that he was coming in with his head down,” said Marquardt. “He was over-committing each time so he basically just gave it to me.”

Ricardo Almeida’s return from a four-year hiatus from active competition was a successful one as he needed just over a minute to submit last-minute replacement opponent, Rob Yundt.

Almeida, who was originally slated to fight budding middleweight Alan Belcher before Belcher was forced to bow out due to illness, took Yundt down after eating an uppercut and locked on a guillotine once Yundt attempted to stand up. The Alaskan Fighting Championship veteran tried to pick up and slam Almeida in an attempt to break the hold but ultimately was forced to tap out and give Almeida his first win since 2004.

Tyson Griffin participated in yet another exciting three-round war as he out-pointed Brazilian Gleison Tibau en route to a unanimous decision victory.

Griffin looked to have Tibau hurt after landing a combination during the closing moments of the first round, but Tibau exploded with an impressive takedown and had Griffin trapped in a crucifix until just before time expired. Griffin stuffed multiple takedown attempts from Tibau in the second and won the first two rounds on the judge’s scorecards. Tibau had the lead over Griffin during the third with an active ground display but it was Griffin who resorted back to his striking and picked up yet another round to seal the deal.

Preliminary Fights

Chris Lytle bombarded Kyle Bradley with a flurry of punches in the opening seconds that surprised Bradley and ended up putting him down for good only 33 seconds into the fight. Powerhouse wrestler Tim Boetsch literally threw Heath into the fence and dazed him when Heath’s head hit the mat. Boetsch finished him off with strikes and came away with his first UFC win. Marvin Eastman kept his UFC career alive with a hard fought, three-round unanimous decision over Terry Martin. Rob Emerson won a controversial, razor close split decision over Keita Nakamura in the night’s first fight.

Miscellaneous Notes

Many professional wrestling stars were in attendance for the event including Steve Austin, The Undertaker, JBL, and Kurt Angle. Lesnar’s wife Rena Lesnar (Sable) was also in attendance. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Tim Sylvia won the award for fight of the night. Chris Lytle won the knockout of the night and Frank Mir the submission of the night. All of the fighters received $60,000 bonuses.

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