by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
Tim Sylvia squares up with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira for the Ultimate Fighting Championship interim heavyweight title and Brock Lesnar makes his Octagon debut against Frank Mir at UFC 81 in Las Vegas. Ricardo Mendoza takes a look at the fight card…


Former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia takes on former Pride heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Sylvia has a 24-3 record and trains out of Miletich Fighting Systems with Ben Rothwell. Nogueira has a 30-4-1 record and trains out of Minotauro Fight Team with Amaury Bitetti.

Sylvia comes off a decision victory over Brandon Vera at UFC 77, while Nogueira defeated Heath Herring for a third time by decision at UFC 73.

These two will be fighting for the interim heavyweight title. Both fighters have a decent chance at walking out the champion on Saturday night.

Sylvia has the advantage on the feet, being a crisp and powerful puncher, but Nogueira may have a slight edge in technique with his boxing prowess. If the fight hits the ground, Nogueira will have a huge advantage and will try to finish the fight by submission.

Sylvia will look good early, controlling the fight on the feet and keeping Nogueira from securing the takedown that he wants. As the fight wears on, we will see Nogueira come to life and pick up the pace, constantly pressuring Sylvia to be on the defense.

At the end of the day, this will end up being a typical Nogueira fight. He’ll take a beating in the early stages and takeover as the fight gets into the latter stages. Nogueira will get this fight to the ground and submit Sylvia to become the new UFC heavyweight champion.

Prediction: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira by submission in the third round.


Former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir takes on former pro wrestling superstar Brock Lesnar. Mir has a 10-3 record and trains out of Las Vegas with Marc Laimon. Lesnar has a 1-0 record and trains out of the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy with Greg Nelson.

Mir comes off a quick submission victory over Antoni Hardonk at UFC 74, while Lesnar stopped Min Soo Kim in his mixed martial arts debut at K-1 Dynamite!! USA.

Known for being a pro wrestler and possibly bring an entire new audience to MMA, Lesnar makes his UFC debut to much fanfare. Mir has never been the same fighter since his motorcycle accident, but he looked his best in submitting Hardonk.

Lesnar has been training for MMA for several years now and has a strong amateur wrestling background, being a former NCAA wrestling champion. Mir was the former heavyweight champion and is known for his submission prowess.

On the feet, the advantage goes to Mir because of his experience, but Lesnar has the advantage in power. Lesnar is a wrestler and will want the fight on the mat, but that could very well be his downfall.

Lesnar will take the fight to the ground and look to unleash strikes. He’ll get comfortable, and that’s when Mir will make his move. He’ll capitalize on a mistake by Lesnar, sweep him and submit him late in the opening round.

Prediction: Frank Mir by submission in the first round.


Former King of Pancrase middleweight champion Nate Marquardt takes on veteran fighter Jeremy Horn. Marquardt has a 25-7-2 record and trains out of Jackson’s Submission Fighting with Joey Villasenor. Horn has a 79-16-2 record and trains out of Team Extreme with Joe Doerksen.

Marquardt comes off a stoppage loss to middleweight champion Anderson Silva at UFC 73, while Jorge Santiago, at Art of War 3, surprisingly submitted Horn.

Marquardt was originally supposed to face a much more dynamic Thales Leites, but now faces a more technical fighter in Horn. Horn took this fight on a few weeks notice, but he always comes prepared to fight.

The advantage on the feet falls to Marquardt, while Horn has a slight advantage on the ground. Both fighters train with good fight teams, but the difference in the fight could be Horn taking the fight on short notice.

Marquardt could have the advantage in the cardio department and he will more than likely push the pace of the fight to exploit Horn’s lack of preparation time. He will control the pace of the fight with crisp striking and keep Horn on the defensive. Horn will look to slow down the fight and use his methodical technical style to control Marquardt.

In what will be a solid technical fight, Marquardt will prevail by outstriking Horn on the feet and keeping him from using his technique to slow the fight en route to a decision.

Prediction: Nate Marquardt by decision.


Former King of Pancrase middleweight champion Ricardo Almeida takes on Alaskan fighter Rob Yundt. Almeida has an 8-2 record and trains out of Renzo Gracie Jiu-Jitsu with Renzo Gracie. Rob Yundt has a 6-0 record and trains out of Alaska.

Almeida last won a decision over Pride veteran Ryo Chonan at Pride Bushido 3, while Yundt stopped Oscar Grando at Alaska Fighting Championship 40.

Almeida will be making his return to MMA after an almost four-year hiatus from the sport in order to focus on his academy. Yundt will be making his UFC debut and will do it on only three days notice after Almeida’s original opponent, Alan Belcher, pulled out due to illness.

Almeida was one of the better fighters when he retired and I doubt much has changed in the years he’s been gone. He is the better fighter both on the feet and on the ground, while Yundt pretty much has nothing to lose in this fight.

Look for Almeida to start off slow and work off the rust, but he will find his groove late in the opening round and submit an overmatched Yundt.

Prediction: Ricardo Almeida by submission in the first round.


Xtreme Couture lightweight Tyson Griffin takes on Brazilian export Gleison Tibau. Griffin has a 10-1 record and trains out of Xtreme Couture with Mike Pyle. Tibau has a 15-4 record and trains out of American Top Team with Marcus Aurelio.

Griffin comes off a close decision victory over Thiago Tavares at UFC 76, while Tibau won a decision over British lightweight Terry Etim at UFC 75.

Most fans expect this to be the fight of the night, as both fighters are capable of putting on an entertaining show. Whoever wins could possibly put himself in line for a title shot some time late this year.

Griffin is the stronger wrestler and, more than likely, the better striker of the two fighters. Tibau has the edge in grappling, but it isn’t by very much. Tibau is very like much like Tavares, but less talented and not as strong.

Even though many fans believe this will be a competitive fight, it won’t be because Griffin is on another level compared to Tibau. Tavares is a much better fighter than Tibau and he didn’t fare well with Griffin and Tibau won’t do any better.

Look for Griffin to control the fight on the feet and take it to the ground whenever he feels that its necessary. He’ll be able to power out of Tibau’s submission attempts and return fire with stinging strikes en route to a decision.

Prediction: Tyson Griffin by decision.


Powerful Midwest wrestler Terry Martin takes on Muay Thai specialist Marvin Eastman. Martin has a 16-3 record and trains out of Illinois. Eastman has a 14-7-1 record and trains out of Las Vegas.

Martin comes off a stunning knockout loss to Chris Leben at UFC Fight Night 11, while Eastman comes off a decision victory over Rob Kimmons at IFO: Eastman vs. Kimmons.

Martin will look to get back on track after dropping his last fight to Leben, in a fight that he was easily controlling until he got a bit overconfident. Eastman has always been a consistent fighter, but now that he moved down to middleweight, he looks to be a contender.

Martin has the edge in grappling being a powerful wrestler and probably is the stronger fighter of the two. Eastman is the more technical striker of the two fighters and needs to keep his distance in order to get his shots in.

Martin should learn from his mistakes and focus on getting the victory by not getting too overconfident. He will overpower Eastman to the ground and unleash a barrage of strikes that will connect with his weak chin.

Prediction: Terry Martin by TKO in the first round.


Midwest fighter David Heath returns to the Octagon to face off with International Fight League veteran Tim Boetsch. Heath has a 7-2 record and trains out of Oklahoma. Boetsch has a 6-1 record and trains out of Pennsylvania.

Heath comes off a submission loss to Renato “Babalu” Sobral at UFC 74, while Boetsch comes off a decision loss to Vladimir Matyushenko at the IFL 2007 Team Semifinals.

Heath took a heck of beating against Sobral and was embarrassed by getting put to sleep. He will no doubt look to erase those memories with a convincing victory. Boetsch took this fight on only a couple weeks notice and will make his UFC debut in the process.

The better striker of the two, Heath is likely the better grappler as well, but Boetsch might have the edge in the wrestling department. Experience will play a factor in the fight with Heath having experience in the UFC and Boetsch being a newcomer.

Nerves will get the best of the debuting Boetsch and Heath will take advantage of that by winning a decision over the newcomer.

Prediction: David Heath by decision.


Ultimate Fighter 4 runner-up Chris Lytle takes on newcomer Kyle Bradley. Lytle has a 24-15-5 record and trains out of Integrated Fighting Academy with Jason Godsey. Bradley has a 13-4 record and trains out of Team Voodoo with Rich Clementi.

Lytle comes off a stoppage loss to Thiago Alves at UFC 78, while Bradley stopped John LeBlanc at Gladiator Promotions: No Surrender.

Lytle will look to bounce back after losing to Alves in fight that he was controlling until it was stopped due a cut he suffered. Bradley will make his UFC debut and it won’t be an easy task, facing a much more experienced fighter.

Lytle will control the fight on feet with his crisp technical boxing and on the ground he will use his slick submission game to outwork the inexperienced Bradley. Bradley will look good early, but once the nerves get to him that’s when Lytle will take over the fight.

Lytle will hurt Bradley on the feet and that will give him the opening on the ground to lock on a submission to get back on the winning track.

Prediction: Chris Lytle by submission in the first round.


Former Shooto Pacific Rim middleweight champion Keita Nakamura takes on Ultimate Fighter 5 veteran Rob Emerson. Nakamura has a 14-2-2 record and trains out of Wajyutsu Keisyukai Tokyo with Yushin Okami. Emerson has a 6-6 record and trains out of Team No Limits with Colin Oyama.

Nakamura comes off a knockout victory over Takefumi Hanai at Cage Force EX Eastern Bound, while Emerson comes off a no contest against Gray Maynard at the Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale.

Nakamura will be making his lightweight debut after going 0-2 in the UFC as a welterweight. Emerson will also be looking for his first UFC victory after that disappointing no contest in his Octagon debut.

Nakamura is the better striker and grappler of the two fighters and will more than likely be the stronger of the two when the fight starts. Emerson will need to land a lucky strike in order to have any chance of winning the fight.

Nakamura will rock Emerson with strikes and then ground him, where he will unleash a barrage of strikes that will end Emerson’s night midway through the fight.

Prediction: Keita Nakamura by TKO in the second round.