by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Frank Mir vs. Marcio “Pe De Pano” Cruz: UFC 57 Preview

By Damon Martin, MMAWeekly

In what could be the most highly anticipated moment of UFC 57, Frank Mir will finally make his return to the octagon for the first time in over a year when he takes on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and former Abu Dhabi champion Marcio “Pe De Pano” Cruz.

For Mir the last two years have been full of ups and downs. First, the Las Vegas native made a quick rise to the top of the contenders list in the UFC heavyweight ranks and given a title shot. His opponent, Tim Sylvia, was in imposing fighter who up until his fight with Mir was undefeated and going for his second successful title defense. That was when the broken arm was seen round the world…

In less than a minute into the fight, the fighters crashed to the octagon floor and in a flash, Mir had secured a solid armbar from the bottom position. After a moment with the hold in place, referee Herb Dean came crashing in to stop the fight. At first confusion filled the arena wondering if the referee had made a poor decision because it was clear that Sylvia didn’t tap out. What did happen was that Mir snapped Sylvia’s arm in two places and the replay was very clear showing the bones break. The fight was stopped and Mir was declared the winner and new UFC heavyweight champion.

It was then that Mir’s career took a turn for the worse.

After deciding that family comes first, Mir got married and a potential showdown with top contender Andrei Arlovski had to be pushed back. During his hiatus from fighting Mir was involved in a motorcycle accident that left him with a broken leg and the injury was so severe that the initial thought wasn’t clear if he could ever fight again. But through intensive rehab and re-strengthening of his leg, Mir has been medically cleared and is ready to work his way back to the top and re-claim his championship title.

Mir’s opponent, Marcio “Pe De Pano” Cruz is still somewhat of an unknown to the world of MMA. A multi-time champion of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Cruz will make his second trip into the octagon against a fighter famous for finishing his opponents with quick submissions. In his first fight out, Cruz defeated Keigo Kunihara by rear naked choke in the second round at UFC 53.

Cruz is an extremely experienced grappler and probably the most decorated ground fighter to ever step foot into the UFC heavyweight division. The 2000 Abu Dhabi champion is now trying to transition his game and adapt it to the sport of mixed martial arts but it’s not always easy as proven by former champion Roberto Traven, who stepped into the UFC and was submitted by Frank Mir in just over a minute at UFC 34.

On paper this fight is tailor made for Frank Mir to have a warm-up bout to get him back into the UFC. While Cruz is certainly a dangerous opponent who will be more than happy to lock on a submission at any point during the fight, he is also extremely green in mixed martial arts competition. Mir on the other hand has a world of experience compared to his opponent and should be and is the favorite going into the fight.

The biggest moment of this fight may come in the opening minute. From everything that Mir’s trainer, Ricardo Pires has said, the former UFC champion is more than ready to step back into full time action, but anytime an athlete comes back from a serious injury, it’s the opening moments that truly tell the tale. While Mir isn’t the greatest stand-up fighter in the world, it will be his hands and feet that will give him his biggest advantage in this fight. If he keeps it toe to toe, Mir should have a big advantage on the feet.

“Pe De Pano” is extremely slick with his submissions, but he has to get Mir down on the ground to apply his trade, and with his background in wrestling, Mir has yet another advantage over his opponent. If this fight goes to the ground and stays there it will most likely be Mir’s choice to do so.

With so many advantages, traditional opinion would point all fingers to Frank Mir being an easy pick to win, but with him not having fought in well over a year, coming back from a major injury, the choice is not that easy at all. While Cruz may not be a huge threat on the feet, anyone can get caught at anytime, which still leaves the possibility open for Mir to get knocked out. The ground fight could be a stalemate if it makes it there, but either fighter could easily finish the other with a submission. And the biggest question for this entire fight could be how is Mir’s endurance?

All of these questions will be answered on February 4th when Frank Mir returns to the UFC to take on Marcio “Pe De Pano” Cruz at UFC 57.
Check Mail Compose