A two-time UFC champion who has remained competitive in the most hazardous division for nearly 14 years, Frank Mir is one of the best heavyweights in mixed martial arts history.
Obviously, names like Fedor Emelianenko and Randy Couture certainly command attention when the best-ever conversation comes up, but Mir has been entrenched in the biggest and baddest promotion for almost his entire career (only two out of his 27 professional fights took place outside of the Octagon). For that reason, alongside his ironclad resume dripping with highlight reel finishes and memorable comebacks, Mir will always be part of the discussion when it comes to talking about the best fighters the heavyweight division has ever produced.
But unlike most of these MMA legends, Mir is still competing today at an elite level. The peanut gallery has certainly mocked his most recent accomplishments, stating that victories against an over-the-hill Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and an unproven Todd Duffee offer little to no merit. But in a division often gasping for win streaks, Mir’s ability to get his hand raised speaks volumes (especially considering both of his recent wins came via first-round knockout).
At 36 years of age, the Las Vegas product has yet another chance to turn back the clock against fellow resurgent heavyweight, Andrei Arlovski. As another member of the UFC’s heavyweight champions club, the Belarusian will carry a five-fight win streak (including back-to-back first-round finishes) with him to the cage this Saturday at UFC 191. It will also be a match-up that was supposed to happen way back in 2004 after Mir snapped Tim Sylvia’s arm to win the title, but a motorcycle accident sidelined the surging champion and diverted a meeting with Arlovski until now.
The stakes are certainly high this weekend considering both heavyweights are on the cusp of another UFC title shot, specifically Arlovski, who has reinvigorated the weight class. But when we start to discuss Mir’s ability to lock down a championship opportunity if he happens to defeat the Pitbull at UFC 191, shoulders begin to rise with uncertainty.
Well, does the relentless veteran deserve yet another chance to hoist promotional gold? Can a decisive victory over Arlovski launch Mir past the rest of the seething heavyweight contenders?
Lets put this dilemma under the proverbial microscope and find out one way or the other.
As one of the shallowest divisions in all of the UFC, the heavyweight roster has always produced top contenders on the means of simple glimpses of momentum. This is a direct result of the landscape in which these behemoths call home. It’s difficult to string together five-straight victories, let alone three or four, when every fighter in the weight class has one-punch knockout power. That’s the way it is and that’s the way it will always be.
So, if Mir is able to get past Arlovski this weekend and cement his third consecutive victory, then he will have done enough to deserve title consideration. And if he happens to finish the Pitbull, his chances of securing such an honor nearly double. Because outside of current champion Fabricio Werdum, a victory for Mir at UFC 191 will tie him with Ben Rothwell for the longest current win streak among Top 10 heavyweights.
Some people would obviously scoff at the idea of Mir’s recent success being enough to challenge the winner of Werdum vs. Cain Velasquez II, but the proof is in the pudding. We’ve been down this road before on more than one occasion. It happened when Mir earned a championship rematch with Brock Lesnar back in 2009 after three-straight victories and again in 2012 when he was granted a title shot opposite Junior dos Santos on the heels of wins over Mirko Cro Cop, Roy Nelson, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Needless to say, history has a funny way of repeating itself. And in Mir’s case, the number three has historically worked in his favor.
Window of Opportunity
It’s no secret that Mir is an aging entity in the heavyweight division. Heck, almost every name on the roster these days seems to be battling father time.
But when it comes to Mir, a guy who lost four fights in a row for the first time in his career from 2012-2014, the window of opportunity is truly slimming. While the UFC is fairly good at taking advantage of these small epochs, nothing is ever certain.
However, Mir is easily one of the most decorated fighters in the organization’s short history. They know that they need to strike while the iron is hot and do everything they can to squeeze Mir dry before he finally hangs it up.
Of course, the same can be said about Arlovski, so the promotion is most likely keeping their options open. But if their heavyweight mainstay yet again proves his worth, it’s going to be hard for the UFC not to bottle lightning one last time.
Popularity and Marketability
Despite a career that many onlookers would consider depleted and on the decline, Mir remains one of the most popular draws the UFC has at its disposal. Even among fellow heavyweights like Velasquez, dos Santos, and Alistair Overeem, the tenured vet holds his own.
The fact of the matter is that Mir can easily produce the same, if not more, appeal for a title fight if he’s able to debunk Arlovski in a few short days. Not to mention the UFC’s proven track record and willingness to go all in when it comes to legends on the upswing, especially ones they can promote out the wazoo. Mir fits this bill to a tee. With the most fights, wins, and finishes in UFC heavyweight history, he may be the easiest sell in the entire division, even for the stingy pockets of casual fight fans.
Not for nothing, but Mir vs. JDS back at UFC 146 did a substantial 560,000 pay-per-view buys (according to MMApayout.com). That’s only 30,000 less than Velasquez vs. JDS II and 230,00 more than Velasquez vs. JDS III.
While this potential scenario doesn’t count towards proving that Mir deserves a title shot should he get by Arlovski at UFC 191, filling in for an injured Velasquez opposite Werdum sometime in 2016 is certainly a possibility for one lucky heavyweight.
Velasquez is in no way, shape, or form reporting any injuries at this moment, but his track record and bruising training camp methods certain cloud his chances of making it to the cage unscathed. Not to mention, he’s going to be conditioning extra hard after losing to Werdum back at UFC 188.
That said, the timing would be right for a guy like Mir if an opening emerges to fight Werdum in the New Year. Dos Santos and Overeem will be fighting each other in December at UFC on Fox 17 and Stipe Miocic or Rothwell would be unable to equate on a promotional level, which leaves the door wide open for a two-time champion on a three-fight win streak.
The fact that Werdum vs. Mir would be billed as a match-up of the two best submission experts in heavyweight history is simply icing on the cake.
If you haven’t caught on, Mir absolutely deserves a title shot with a win over Arlovski. Of course, everything depends on his capability of getting past an evolved version of Pitbull this Saturday. It’s going to be one of the most dangerous fights of Mir’s storied career, and one that can either extend his excellence or push him towards the edge of retirement.
(Follow Daniel Hiergesell @DH_MMA on Twitter)