John Chandler here to break down UFC 81: Breaking Point fight-by-fight, including detailed predictions along the way.
The event is scheduled to take place tomorrow night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
UFC 81: Breaking Point features a total of nine fights including a battle for the interim UFC heavyweight title between former champion Tim Sylvia and former PRIDE star Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira as well as the UFC debut of one-time professional wrestler and WWE superstar Brock Lesnar as he goes up against former champion Frank Mir.
Tim Sylvia vs Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
A big fight in my opinion. It’s another UFC vs PRIDE matchup that has roots all the way back to when the UFC was just about to surge in popularity and PRIDE was still going strong. Both guys were proponents of the other promotion’s champions and top fighters trading places to finally settle the debate as to what organization had the better fighters.
I think this is going to be a tough matchup for Nogueira. On paper it looks like he should be able to beat Sylvia but I’m just not sure that is going to be the case. Nogueira has the obvious advantage on the ground. He’s most likely the most dangerous heavyweight submissions-wise in the game today and in history too.
I’m just not sure if he’ll be able to take Sylvia down in order to impose his will on him. Sylvia has very good takedown defense, despite what he saw in his loss to Couture. Nogueira’s takedowns are decent but nowhere near the level of Randy’s or any other solid wrestler for that matter. Nogueira is most dangerous off of his back but Sylvia has always done a pretty good job at defending submissions while working some ground and pound from the top position.
The majority of this fight will likely take place on the feet. Nogueira is a solid striker and I think he’ll be able to hold his own for the most part but Sylvia’s reach advantage and style of punching is eventually going to wear on Nogueira. Sylvia comes straight forward with long punches. Nogueira will be able to defend them but he’s going to have to take chances in order to generate some offense and that’s where his biggest problem lies.
I’m not concerned with the cardio of either fighter. Nogueira suffered loads of punishment throughout ten-minute first rounds in PRIDE while Sylvia has gone all five rounds in each of his last three fights. I don’t think this one will go the distance but it should go pretty deep into the fight. I see Sylvia eventually stopping Nogueira with strikes either late in the third or early in the fourth round.
Frank Mir vs Brock Lesnar
I really think too many people are getting hyped up on the fact that it’s Brock Lesnar stepping into the UFC and nothing else. Basically this fight is a former standout college wrestler who has one fight to his credit (no amateur MMA experience at all) against a former UFC heavyweight champion in Frank Mir.
Who cares about the fact that he’s a former WWE superstar. It matters not in this fight.
We’ve all seen what happens when a wrestler with barely any mixed martial arts experience steps in and tries to throw down with the big boys. (Josh Koscheck in season one of TUF) He looks good until he goes up against a well-rounded fighter. It takes time to learn the skills needed to succeed and it’s basically a gamble at this point in guessing if Lesnar has progressed enough or not.
I wasn’t impressed with Lesnar’s performance against Kim at all. It was a nothing fight against an opponent selected to feed to Lesnar after Hong Man Choi was unable to compete. In fact after watching him against Fedor, I wouldn’t be surprised if Choi would have been a serious threat to Lesnar during that fight. It doesn’t matter that Lesnar is huge at heavyweight. It doesn’t matter that he’s a powerhouse wrestler. He’s an above-average athlete who is relatively new to the game and he’s going up against one of the best grapplers in the world at his weight class.
Sure this isn’t the same Mir of old. He hasn’t been the same since the motorcycle accident, we all know that. Did he come back too early from it? Who knows. The fact that he’s even fighting at all is remarkable within itself. It’s been a slow and painful comeback but the Antoni Hardonk fight shows us that Mir still has something left.
I’m pretty confident that Mir is going to win this fight. Unless Lesnar has tripled his skills since he fought last June, he is going to make a fool of himself out there. Mir’s stand-up has always been average at best but he has a chance of making himself look a lot better than he really is out there.
The only concern I have with Mir is his gas tank. He says that he’s been working on his stamina for a while now so hopefully that’ll help him in this one. Either way, this one will not go the distance. Mir will most likely submit Lesnar within the first two rounds. I don’t buy the claim that Lesnar is just going to over-power Mir and pound him out on the ground. Mir is a good enough grappler to be able to defend himself against a bigger opponent and I think he’ll defend himself well in this fight.
A lot of people have been saying that Mir only has a small window, basically the first round and the beginning of the second to finish off Lesnar, which is basically true. I don’t think Mir will be able to withstand a huge amount of punishment. I still think though that Lesnar’s ground game still won’t be advanced enough so he can be able to be aggressive as he wants to be on top without getting caught in something.
I also question Lesnar’s head going into this fight. Every interview I’ve seen or heard him in, he’s always talking about himself and never seems concerned about what Mir brings to the table. If he really is thinking that way he’s probably going to find himself in trouble in this fight.
If Mir gets destroyed, I’ll gladly eat crow. However I don’t think anyone can blame me for using simple logic at this point in doubting Lesnar.
Nate Marquardt vs Jeremy Horn
This is one of those fights that I think a lot of people wished would happen but probably never would so huge props have to go to the UFC for setting this one up.
This is a very even fight. Both guys have similar styles. Both guys are extremely talented on the ground. I’d probably give the edge to Marquardt on the feet. Horn is a decent striker, he’s able to defend himself on the feet pretty well while still scoring with punches but I’d still say that Marquardt is the more technical fighter on the feet.
When it comes to the ground, Horn is a wizard. I don’t think you can’t give him the edge in the submission department but that doesn’t mean that Marquardt won’t be able to hold his own as he’s very good when the fights hits the mat too. Marquardt’s submission defense is solid enough that he’ll be able to prevent Horn from pulling off anything big. Marquardt having a strength advantage should help him too. I know Horn has fought at 205 lbs as well but Marquardt seems to have a better build and should be able to power his way out of a lot of things too.
I think the key to this fight is whether or not Horn will be able to take Marquardt down. He’ll do well on the feet but ultimately the only way he’ll be able to finish the fight is if it goes to the ground. Marquardt has very good takedown defense, just like we saw in his fight against Lister. This one will probably go the distance with Marquardt coming out the winner unanimously.
Ricardo Almeida vs Rob Yundt
Almedia’s original opponent, Alan Belcher, was forced to pull out of this fight earlier this week due to a severe case of bronchitis.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the UFC moves this fight to the undercard in exchange for Martin-Eastman or Lytle-Bradley at this point just because Yundt is pretty unknown and they still would have the opportunity to show Almeida as a swing bout if the UFC really wants to push his return that much.
Almeida is a question mark going into this bout. We all know what he’s capable of from earlier on his career but the fact of the matter is this is going to be his first fight in almost for years. He’s been running his gym and has been staying active since his departure but it’s almost impossible to question where exactly Almedia is going to be at coming into this fight.
So much has happened since 2004. The game has changed completely. Fighters need to be decent at everything now. He had a rough ride while he was in the UFC but that was in the beginning of his career. After losing to Andrei Semenov, he never lost again, went on a six fight winning-streak and beat the likes of Misaki, Marquardt, and Chonan.
There’s not very much out there on Yundt. I know he’s a decent wrestler, pretty strong, likes to take the fight to the ground and try to pound his opponents out. He’s fought in the Alaska Fighting Championship, the same promotion where Doug Evans came from. He’s coming into this bout on a few days notice and he’s being thrown in there as of right now on the main card of a huge event.
I’m just going to have to go with Almeida in this one. Fighters who come into fights on less than a week’s notice usually don’t fare too well. Almedia should submit him at some point during the first round.
Tyson Griffin vs Gleison Tibau
I think the biggest story coming into this fight was the fact that the UFC didn’t have this fight listed as being one of the televised fights but that all changed when Griffin set the story straight on Jarry Park this week.
There are two fights that are fight of the night candidates in my opinion and this is one of them. Both guys have similar styles. Both guys love to push the pace and put on a show for the fans so it should turn out to be a pretty good fight.
It’s hard to say who has the edge where in this fight. Both guys have the ability to stand and bang. They aren’t necessarily the best strikers but they can get the job done and hurt their opponents. Tibau has some pretty dangerous submissions and Griffin is obviously an amazing wrestler as we’ve all seen in his past bouts. Both guys are on a roll. Griffin has been spectacular since his loss to Frankie Edgar. Tibau was pretty much thrown to the wolves when he took on Nick Diaz in his first fight but since then he’s won three straight and I’m sure it’s helped his confidence a lot.
Tibau likes to control his opponents and I don’t think he’ll be able to do that against Griffin. As we saw in the Tavares fight, Griffin can end up in some dangerous positions but always seems to find his way out of them. I think Tibau will be able to put Griffin in some predicaments but I don’t think he’ll be able to finish him off.
Unlike Griffin’s last couple of fights, I don’t think this one will go the distance. Griffin should probably be able to finish him off in the second round. He’ll probably overwhelm Tibau with strikes at some point while holding him down.
Chris Lytle vs Kyle Bradley
This is a pretty interesting match-up. We all know what Lytle brings to the table. He’s a very well-rounded fighter but just always seems to catch the wrong break during a fight and ends up losing. Always puts on a show. All of his fights are very exciting and I don’t think that’s going to change in this one.
Lytle’s biggest problem in his fights is that he either doesn’t come up with a good enough game plan or just completely throws whatever strategy he has out the window in order to put on a show for the fans. I’m sure everyone appreciates it but at this stage in his career he should probably focus more on winning fights.
Bradley has a pretty impressive record. Has fought mostly in small shows but has stopped all but one of his opponents. He’s a pretty one-dimensional fighter though. Likes to stand and bang. Lytle can win this fight anywhere he wants to do in my opinion. His stand-up will be way too technical for Bradley. If it goes to the ground, Bradley is in even worse trouble. I think Lytle will end up hurting Bradley on the feet and then will finish the fight on the ground via submission.
Marvin Eastman vs Terry Martin
My other candidate for fight of the night. Somebody is going to be knocked out by the end, no doubt about that. Both guys are very, very strong, quick on their feet, explosive. Both guys are decent wrestlers as well.
I’d probably give Eastman the edge in explosiveness. I think he’s the much better athlete compared to Martin. I think Eastman’s downfall is that similar to Lytle who we just talked about, he usually gets goaded into slugfests and that’s the one thing I don’t think he wants to do in this fight.
Eastman has been knocked out in the past and his chin is pretty questionable. There’s no doubt that Martin has the power to be able to knock him out and I think that’s what is going to happen in this fight. I think it might go past the first round but once Martin is able to touch Eastman on the chin a few times it’ll be over shortly after.
David Heath vs Tim Boetsch
Boetsch is another late replacement coming into this event. He’ll be replacing Tomasz Drwal, who was forced to pull out after suffering a knee injury during training.
Unlike Yundt, a lot of people have actually seen Boetsch fight before. He’s a very good wrestler. He did extremely well against Vladimir Matyushenko over the summer in the IFL. He took Matyushenko the distance and even put him in some bad positions at certain points during the fight. He ended up losing a decision but he was very impressive regardless. I also saw him last year at a Reality Fighting event in New Jersey and finished off the guy in 20 seconds.
This fight is do or die basically for Heath. I think Boetsch is such a raw talent that he’ll be invited back no matter what but this is a must-win fight for Heath. He’s dropped two in a row, granted those losses were against Machida and Babalu, but he still has to win this fight. The UFC is throwing some fresh meat at him and he has to capitalize on it.
Heath definitely has the edge on the feet. I tend to think that he’s better off when it comes to submissions too. Heath is going to have to try and keep it on the feet this one. Boetsch’s weakness during the Matyushenko fight was he wasn’t able to defend a combination of leg kicks and jabs that well. Still, I think Boetsch’s wrestling will be good enough to keep Heath on his back for the majority of the fight. Boetsch by decision. A close one though, the fight will be close.
Rob Emerson vs Keita Nakamura
This an interesting clash of styles. Emerson is a pretty solid kickboxer. He’ll obviously want to keep this one on the feet. However Nakamura has been pretty impressive striking-wise as well in his fights and he’s definitely a better grappler compared to Emerson.
Nakamura’s first two fights have been pretty tough. He lost both but took Brock Larson and Drew Fickett the distance which is impressive in itself. He’s been in the fire before and I think that’s key going into this as Emerson’s only fight in the UFC was the no-contest against Gray Maynard.
Emerson claims that he’s a completely revamped fighter and Nakamura is going to be a tough test for him in order to prove that. With all that said, I still think Nakamura is the all-around better fighter and should get his first UFC win in this one, most likely by submission within the first two rounds.