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Despite his four-fight losing streak, Frank Mir’s do or die situation provides intrigue

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In a sport that seems to be driven by their respective pioneers, there seems to be lingering interest about UFC Fight Night 61. We’ve seen how the likes of Tito Ortiz and Stephen Bonnar are still drawing massive ratings in 2014. Chuck Liddell is still featured in commercials, along with having his very own costume. Rampage Jackson and Mirko Cro Cop have been re-signed by the UFC over the past few months. There is no denying that some of the sport’s biggest stars and pioneers are still being featured heavily.

While he’s never been quite on the level of superstardom, Frank Mir is a well-known commodity that has been fighting in the UFC since 2001. His story of coming back from a freak motorcycle accident will never be forgotten. The fact that he won the heavyweight (albeit interim) title and has managed to fight at a high level for nearly ten years now is remarkable. The shelf life of a heavyweight seems to be decreasing rapidly. From the likes of Brock Lesnar to Shane Carwin, their bodies began to break down. Let’s not discount the current champion Cain Velasquez and former champion Junior Dos Santos, who have only fought once combined since their championship bout in October of 2013.

For a heavyweight to remain durable and fight at least twice a year consistently has been rare. We may see fighters like Travis Browne and Alistair Overeem consistently active, but will they still be fighting in 2018 at a high level? That’s what makes Mir somewhat under-appreciated, regardless of how his abilities have declined. It’s hard pressed to see a heavyweight remain in the top ten or fifteen from 2006 to 2014. The question now becomes does the run end here?

There is no doubting that Mir’s UFC career is on the line. In a shallow heavyweight division, the UFC could get away with him losing four in a row. The talk about his bout against Alistair Overeem being headlined as a “loser leaves town fight” was nothing more than a farce (for Mir’s case that is). We’ve seen Ortiz and Dan Hardy get another opportunity from four-fight losing streaks. Now could he come back from a five-fight losing streak? The health of the 35-year old former champion would be at jeopardy, along with the sport’s sketchy credibility.

That puts the future Hall-Of-Famer’s career against the wall in enemy territory. It’s rather fitting that Mir will be fighting in Brazil against significant odds. In previous interviews, he’s always embraced the challenge of facing the best fighters. Mir’s motives have always been directed towards evolving as a mixed martial artist. Even through his most brutalizing defeats to Lesnar, Carwin, and his recent losing streak, a new challenge rather than padding his record interested more. His name value has always kept him credible.

The constant debate about Mir’s losing streak has come from injuries catching up to him and being overmatched in recent fights. It couldn’t have been more evident that Overeem was the cruelest possible matchup. The former Stikeforce heavyweight champion is an elite striker that knows how to utilize the clinch better than anyone in the heavyweight division. Mir has notoriously struggled inside the clinch against bigger heavyweights. Then you include Overeem’s grappling excellence and underrated takedown defense, it was a dire situation for the two-time heavyweight champion.

Daniel Cormier was another mismatch for him based on the speed and wrestling discrepancy. Despite being outweighed by over 20 pounds, Cormier controlled Mir without much resistance against the cage. At opportune times, Cormier would unleash with a flurry of punches that landed instantly. Besides the fight against Josh Barnett, matchmaking hasn’t been favorable for Mir. While he’s too proud to ever pass up on a challenge, it has now put his UFC career on the brink of ending. It has now led to a fight against Antonio Silva, which oddly became a five-round fight, due to Glover Teixeira’s injury.

This shouldn’t be classified as a favorable matchup, but still a fight that doesn’t seem insurmountable. Silva is clearly much bigger and relatively well rounded for a heavyweight. While he’s certainly slow, his boxing is lethal from a power and technical standpoint. Although his knockout of Travis Browne was contributed by Browne tearing his hamstring, it can’t be discounted how Silva landed an acute straight right hand in finishing the fight. Who can forget his combinations in knocking out Overeem as well?

Silva’s flaw will always be his lack of speed from his massive stature. That doesn’t take away from his overall striking and high-fight IQ. In his victory over Overeem, we saw him impressively land a left head kick that staggered the former K1 champion. This is something that Mir has to account for, who has never had great movement. He does stay loose by constantly moving in a similar fashion to Rashad Evans. That movement has never translated into the horizontal movement that we’ve seen younger fighters start to utilize. Mir’s movement has consisted of hopping around in attempting to bait his opponent into a mistake.

That has always been a negative tendency in Mir’s fighting style. It seems to be the mindset of a highly accomplished Jiu-Jitsu specialist. His tendency has been to wait for his opponent to make a mistake and attempt to capitalize immediately. Mir has notoriously been a slow starter. His loss to Carwin comes to mind from his game plan of being content in wanting to take the fight into the second round. Carwin had never fought in the second round yet, which led to Mir being overly defensive. His compliancy against the fence led to taking a barrage of uppercuts and more countless punches in one of the more disturbing finishes in MMA history.

Even in a five-round fight against someone that lacks speed and cardio, Mir can’t afford to take any rounds off. Whether it’s trying to take the fight to the ground or striking with Silva, he’ll need to be assertive. That comes from a boxing standpoint, where Angelo Reyes has started to work with him. Some may be puzzled as to why Mir isn’t training at Jackson’s anymore. His cardio, which has always been an issue, looked drastically better in his loss to Cormier. No one quite knows what his motives are, but emphasis on his boxing seems to be a priority. That has always been an inconsistent element in his repertoire.

There is no telling what to make of Mir, who has distanced himself from the spotlight. It was only a few years ago that headlines would feature his name on a weekly basis. Whether it was critiquing a fighter’s flaws or being candid about his feelings of Brock Lesnar, it was common to see Mir in major headlining news. Now his career has backtracked towards mostly focusing on training and being a father. Besides being a co-host on Fight Corner radio, he’s long removed from his days of being a brash unfiltered heavyweight.

Some may groan about a fighter being on a four-fight losing streak, yet still managed to fight in a main event slot. Mir is still a popular commodity that attracts interest from his accomplishments. From his past interview with Mike Bohn, he does seem rejuvenated from the extensive layoff. Could we see a revitalized Mir, who is more aggressive and willing to be more unpredictable? Will it be different from seeing him attempting desperate double-leg takedowns against Overeem that were squashed in an instant? All of this will be answered on Sunday in what should be an intriguing bout. The only guarantee will be that the fight will end in definitive fashion. Whether the everlasting heavyweight tears another limb or displays the striking that we saw at UFC 92 against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira remains in question. Whatever the case may be, the interest remains in watching one of the last UFC pioneers.

Twitter: @Allen_Strk

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