The UFC makes its sophomore trip to Brisbane, Australia, this weekend with a heavyweight headliner between Frank Mir and Mark Hunt. The card also features the return of Hector Lombard from a one-year drug suspension. Lombard is set to face Neil Magny, one of the hottest UFC fighters of the last two years, in the welterweight co-main event.
Let's break down the main event and provide a pick on the top two fights. Don't agree with the predictions? Let MMA analyst Brett Okamoto know on Twitter: @bokamotoESPN.
Mark Hunt (11-10-1) vs. Frank Mir (18-10)
Odds: Hunt -165; Mir +145
The volatility of the heavyweight division can make handicapping rather meaningless at times. We can talk about styles for days only to see a matchup turn upside down with one punch. That's true of any division, sure, but especially of the heavies. And it's equally possible that both men gas and we're left with a relatively sloppy, flat-footed, lumbering effort. These things can happen in this division.
It's worth reminding ourselves of this before getting into Hunt-Mir because both have reached a point in their careers where it wouldn't be that surprising if they showed up in less than perfect condition. These guys are a combined age of 77 and combined weight of 530 pounds. They've each logged a lot of miles and this is a five-round fight. There is always a chance fatigue sets in and the result hinges on who handles it best.
At this stage of his career, Mir has permanently traded in some mobility for power. He's consistently weighing in at more than 260 pounds, as opposed to the mid-250s he preferred in his youth. He's throwing fewer kicks and sitting down more on punches. He says improved health played a major role in his resurgence last year, when he snapped a four-fight losing streak with back-to-back victories. He was pretty flat in a loss to Andrei Arlovski in September, the result of accepting two fights in less than two months.
It's easy to automatically give Hunt an advantage on the feet -- and that's probably true, although it's not insurmountable. We know about Hunt's power, and his chin is probably in better shape than Mir's. He keeps his hands low to defend takedowns, surprises some opponents with his hand speed and (something specific to watch for in this matchup) he throws some nasty uppercuts in tight. Mir, a guy who doesn't mind fighting out of the clinch, will want to be very conscious of those uppercuts.
Hunt's takedown defense is a mix of good and awful. When he's fresh, it can be real tough to get him down. The best approach is probably to go at him low (which is why you saw Fabricio Werdum literally diving for the big man's ankles when they fought). That or wait until starts to tire. Once Hunt tires, he'll topple over relatively easy if you get a strong hold on a single leg. If Mir shows up in shape, he's a savvy enough grappler to take advantage of this.
PREDICTION: Careful performance by Mir, ground game takes over in the middle rounds. Mir by third-round TKO.
Hector Lombard (34-4-1) vs. Neil Magny (17-4)
Odds: Magny -130; Lombard +110
What kind of falloff, if any, should we expect from Lombard? He is 38 and coming off 14 months on the shelf for a doping violation. Magny has as much momentum as anyone in the game and his skill set has caught up to his raw physical and mental tools. He's already had a few coming-out parties. This might be another one.
PREDICTION: Magny via decision.