Frank Mir V Cheick Kongo - Heavyweight bout
Frank Mir steps into the octagon for this fight without the fanfare to which he has surely become accustomed in recent back to back headline fights, each with different outcomes.
A superb stand-up win over Pride and now UFC great, the admittedly under-the-weather Antonio Minotauro Nogueira, and a brutal KO defeat whilst wedged underneath the 280lb of Brock Lesnar.
Big Nog has since gone on to a convincing win in a fantastic bout opposite Randy "The Natural" Couture, and the 30 year old Mir must be anxious to echo this success in putting a solid victory over Kongo on his resume.
Cheick Kongo has long craved a title shot, using his cage appearances to bemoan his journeyman status, and his 5/4 price to win indicates his desire and solid stand up skills.
Mir's 4/7 chance of seeing his hand raised depends on his getting Kongo to the ground.
The 6'4", 16 and a half stone Frenchman is deadly on his feet, as evidenced through his KO record in both MMA and kickboxing. However, he has been found wanting by inferior fighters before now simply by being taken out of his comfort zone and forced to grapple - and this is black belt in BJJ Mir's strength. In possessing bone-shattering jiu jitsu, perfectly adapted for MMA, Mir is a threat for anyone in the heavyweight division and his grappling record should have Kongo practising his long range striking, takedown defence, and in all feasibility, tapping.
Unless ex-Las Vegas strip club bouncer Mir intends to prove his worth as a striker in this bout, ala the Nogueria fight, it will end up on the mat.
In fact, if Mir intends to strike, he's likely to end up on the mat, but due to the fists of Kongo and without full use of his faculties. My prediction is some tense feeling out in the first two to three minutes, before Mir decides to play to his strengths.
The 17 and a half stone Mir has a previous win over a larger, more athletic, stronger man than Kongo, with heavy hands - Brock Lesnar. Here he demonstrated his jiu jitsu ability from his back; whilst never likely to beat Lesnar in an arm wrestle, once the fight became more technically involved he was capable of pushing the current title holder's knee to it's limit and forcing him to tap... Mir's ground game is as good as it gets in this division (providing Antonio Minotuaro Nogueira never reads this site).
For those looking to back the 34 year old Parisian Kongo, hope for a clinical and measured approach, with targeted shots being thrown early on, followed by a demonstration of his strength and experience.
Kongo has trained at Wolfs Lair, alongside Michael Bisping and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and will hopefully bring some of their controlled ferocity and importantly determination into the fight.
We've seen fighters who put less emphasis on the "mixed" nature of MMA win before and it will happen again; Kongo must punish Mir at each opportunity and remain on his feet at all costs.
Cheick needs to turn this one into a kickboxing fight to win, whether it's by KO or decision. His striking skills are up to it, undoubtedly, but he lacks the versatility to make the 5/4 available a value price.
Expect a submission victory late in the first or in the second round for Mir, capitalising on Kongo's lack of ground game.