mma / Columns

MMA Legacy 6.22.09: Frank Mir

June 22, 2009 | Posted by Bill Wannop

Frank MirEach and every week MMA Legacy shines the spotlight on a MMA legend. The legends may be retired or may be still actively competing. The column will begin with a bio on the selected legend following his career throughout its highs and lows. With the monumental UFC 100 approaching, MMA Legacy will take a look at the career of one of the fighters in the three main event matchups. This week we start with a fighter in the heavyweight unification bout, Frank Mir.

Frank Mir was born on May 24, 1979 (making him 30 years old today) in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was born into a martial arts family, as his parents ran a Kenpo Karate school, so naturally Frank became versed in martial arts. After watching UFC 1, he was amazed how the bigger, stronger guys were getting taken down and submitted by Royce Gracie. His father pushed Frank to learn wrestling as he thought that this would help Frank be able to defend submissions. When Frank first got into wrestling he lost his first 7 matches before going on to eventually win the Nevada State wrestling championship in 1998.

As a teenager Frank received his black belt in Kenpo and after high school he began to take a liking to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Instead of going to college Frank decided to focus on martial arts training instead. Frank Mir met up with Joe Silva (UFC matchmaker) while Silva was visiting a school that Frank was instructing. The two began to talk, and Silva suggested that the UFC would be interested in having Frank fight for their organization if he could first prove himself on some smaller shows. This prompted Frank to take on Jerome Smith at HOOKnSHOOT-showdown on July 14 2001, in his first professional MMA fight. The fight went to a two round decision and Frank was declared the winner. One month later on another independent card Frank fought Dan Quinn, but this time he ended the fight with a triangle choke in the first round. Directly after this fight the UFC made Frank an offer.

Frank MirOn November 2, 2001 at UFC 34, Frank made his UFC debut causing Roberto Traven to tap out one minute in due to an armbar. Frank won tap out of the night honors for his performance and followed up this performance at UFC 36 when he caused Pete Williams to tap for the first time in his career, due to a shoulder lock at 0:46 of the first round, bringin his MMA record to 4-0.

Frank would suffer a setback against Ian Freeman, however as he was defeated via TKO due to strikes in the first round. During the fight Frank attempted several leg lock attempts however all were unsuccessful, and Freeman gained side control where he pounded on Mir with elbows. Near the end of the round, the referee tried to stand the fight up, and when an exhausted Mir tried to reach his feet, he started wobbling around the octagon and the referee stopped the fight.

Frank would attempt to get redemption in the form of a meeting with returning star Tank Abbott. Despite being the underdog in the fight, Frank quickly got a takedown, and rolled for a leg lock causing Tank to tap in under a minute to a toe hold.

Following the victory over Abbott Frank would meet future Ultimate Fighter reality show hopeful, Wes Sims. During the fight, Frank had Sims in a deep armbar, and Sims attempted to escape by lifting Frank up and dropping him to the mat. Following the slam, Wes would stomp on Frank’s face, which is illegal and earned Frank a victory via DQ.

The two men would have a rematch at UFC 46 with Frank being more determined to finish the fight due to the actions of Sims in the previous meeting. In a surprise to most Frank finished the fight using his striking to KO Wes Sims in the first round to bring his MMA record to 7-1.

After this victory Frank earned a title shot for the heavyweight championship against Tim Sylvia for the vacant title that Sylvia had to relinquish due to him testing positive for anabolic steroids. In the first round, Mir attempted an armbar, and Sylvia struggling to pull his arm out, but Frank held tight actually causing Sylvia’s arm to break. This forced Herb Dean to stop the fight and award the victory and title to Mir. Sylvia claimed his arm was fine, even hitting it and moving it around to try and prove his point but the referees’ decision was final and x-rays after the fight proved that his arm was indeed broken at the radius. After the victory Frank was awarded his black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu from Ricardo Pires.

With the victory Frank Mir had reached the pinnacle of the sport and was on top of the world. But his happiness would not last long. Following the fight on September 17, 2004 Frank would have a severe accident while riding his motorcycle which fractured his femur and tore all the ligaments in his knee. Many felt that Frank would not recover from this accident and perhaps he would never fight again. Frank was determined to get back in the cage, and he began his extensive rehab. Due to the uncertainty with Frank’s fighting career, and due to the extensive rehab required, the UFC created an interim championship, which Andre Arlovski won by defeating Tim Sylvia. The UFC then scheduled a unification belt between Arlovski and Mir for October 2005. However Frank’s recovery was progressing slower then anticipated and he informed the UFC that he would be unable to compete in October so the UFC had no choice but to strip Frank of his championship.

Frank finally returned on February 4, 2006, a year and a half after the injury at UFC 57 against relative newcomer Marcio Cruz. In what was a shocking upset Cruz was able to defeat Mir by TKO due to strikes in the first round, and had many people questioning whether Frank could ever be the same man he was before the accident.

In his next fight Frank did get back to the winning track against Dan Christison at UFC 61: Bitter Rivals by winning a unanimous decision victory. The matchup was very slow with limited action which drew a barrage of boos as it ended, with Mir coming into the fight looking out of shape and gassing early in the first round. However Christison wasn’t exactly a world beater and Frank managed to get the better of him and win the fight.

Frank would hit another road block on his way back to the top at UFC 65: Bad Intentions against Brandon Vera who defeated Mir by strikes in round 1. Frank mounted no offense against Vera and many people began to think of Mir had completely lost all the skill and talent he once possessed. Mir was also very critical of himself saying that he lost to a guy that wasn’t even a real heavyweight.

An 8 month layoff and a renewed sense of focus would be what Frank would need to get back on the winning track and at UFC 74: Respect, Frank began to show some spark of his former self when he submitted Antoni Hardonk by Kimura in the first round. Frank was then offered a fight with newcomer and former pro wrestler Brock Lesnar, and Frank accepted with the thought that a win here could put an end to all the naysayers and put Frank back into title contention (plus the added publicity that Frank would gain from the fight wouldn’t hurt).

Frank Mir vs. Brock LesnarAt UFC 81: Breaking Point in what was one of the most watched UFC pay per views in history Mir and Lesnar met. The opening minutes of the fight did not look good for Frank, with Brock totally dominating him, scoring a takedown and pounding Mir from side control before being stopped by the referee. At first everyone had though that Lesnar had been awarded the victory when in fact the referee Steve Mazigutti deducted a point from Lesnar due to blows to the back of the head without giving him a warning. Following the stand up and point deduction Brock took control again knocking down Mir with a punch and ending up in Franks guard. While on the ground however Frank was able to roll for a leg and lock Brock up in a kneebar him to tap out. While Mir had earned the victory many questions remained as he was beaten up for the majority of the fight, and scored a submission on a fighter with limited experience. It would take one more fight before Frank could finally prove he was back in top form.

Due to the contract dispute between the UFC and then champion Randy Couture the UFC created an interim championship to be awarded to the winner of the fight between the top two contenders, Frank Mir and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. First these two men would build to their fight by coaching opposite one another on the Ultimate Fighter reality show, season 8. At the end of the season the two coaches would meet at UFC 92: Ultimate 2008 in December. In what was a stunning upset Frank Mir used his striking to knock Nogueira down twice in the first round and once in the second round to finally finish Nogueira by TKO. Frank was the first man ever to finish Nogueira by TKO, and in doing so won the interim heavyweight championship. Frank proved that he had returned to his old form, and actually become better then he was before his motorcycle accident.

Frank Mir vs. NogeuiraAfter Frank was to meet the current UFC heavyweight championship to unify the titles, which would be a man he had defeated on his road back to the top Brock Lesnar. This fight is one of the most anticipated fights in UFC history and will headline UFC 100 on July 11, 2009. How much has Brock improved over their first encounter? Will Frank use his jiu-jitsu to submit Brock again, or will he try and stand to use his much improved striking against Brock? Only time will tell, and it will no doubt be one of the biggest fights in history.

Frank has truly had a rollercoaster ride in his fight career. From working as a bouncer at Spearmint Rhino stripclub in Las Vegas before entering the UFC, to winning the heavyweight championship from Tim Sylvia, to the crash that not only almost ended his career to his life to returning to top form and defeating Lesnar and Nogueira to be crowned champion again. Frank Mir has already created a Legacy as one of the best submission heavyweights in the UFC, and is currently ranked 3rd on 411mania’s Heavywight Rankings..

Future Outlook
Frank is while a relatively young fighter; he is a two time heavyweight champion and has a wealth of experience. His upcoming fight with Brock Lesnar will indicate how far Mir truly has come. I don’t think he has evolved as much as people think however. His win over Nogueira, while impressive must be taken with a grain of salt, as it was reported that Nogueira suffered a severe staph infection before the fight which most likely affected his timing, endurance and overall performance. Before that in the previous meeting with Lesnar Mir was being dominated before catching Lesnar in the kneebar. I see him being beaten by Lesnar at UFC 100, and having trouble with the other top heavyweights in the division (Couture, Carwin, Kongo).


Ultimate Fighter Finale Thoughts
We are going to add a star rating from here on out based on my enjoyment of the fight. The rating is on a 5 star system, with 5 stars being an must see, fight of the year candidate.

Nate Diaz vs. Joe Stevenson
I was thinking this could end up being a great fight, but was afraid that Joe Stevenson could catch the Clay Guida syndrome, in that he uses his wrestling to basically hold the opponent on the ground and do no damage. The latter happened in that all Joe did was hold Nate the entire fight. Nate to his credit attempted a submission every chance he got, but Joe was just too strong. This is the main problem with the scoring system in that I felt that Nate attempted more submission and was more active, while all Joe did was hold Nate. Yes Joe was on top the majority of the fight but with the exception of the first round did no damage, while Nate was active from the bottom attempting submissions (especially given the nature of the decision from the judges in favor of Melvin Guillard from earlier in the evening). What can you do though with Joe Stevenson earning the decision.
Winner: Joe Stevenson, unanimous decision, **

Ross Pearson vs. Andre Winner
Joe Rogan said it best that this fight mirrored the Serra-Lytle finale from the comeback season in that the majority of the fight was spend with both fighters clinched against the cage jockeying for position. I actually got up during the second round and took the dog out, came back and the two were in the same position pressed against the cage. Tough fight to judge, with Pearson getting the unanimous decision.
Winner: Ross Pearson, unanimous decision, *1/2*

Chris Lytle vs. Kevin Burns
Lytle got rocked and dropped early and I actually thought I saw him tapping as Burns rained down the blows, but I guess he wasn’t. Lytle recovered enough and from round 2 on punished Burns with the stand up. While Lytle always puts on an entertaining fight and has tons of heart due to his current wild style he will always falter against top of the division fighters. I think Burns will benefit more from the defeat, as he showed toughness, improved striking and a ton of heart.
Winner: Chris Lytle, unanimous decision, ***

DarMarques Johnson vs. James Wilks
Wow, Wilks surprisingly dominated Johnson here. While it was a pretty exciting fight with lots of action on the feet and on the ground Wilks just looked far superior to Johnson. I don’t know if it was the nerves that got to Johnson, but he sure looked like the favorite on the show. Wilks had him in nearly five different close submission attempts before finally getting the rear naked choke with just seconds left in the round.
Winner: James Wilks, rear naked choke, ***1/2*

Diego Sanchez vs. Clay Guida
Diego came out as a ball of fire just destroying Guida in round one with punches and a head kick. It was good to see Diego back to his aggressive ways. In the second Guida did get the takedown, but he did no damage. None at all. Diego did more damage from the bottom by throwing elbows actually opening up a cut on Guida. Third round was quite even. I can’t really see how one judge gave Guida the victory, as he did NO DAMAGE at all to Diego and just held him down. Maybe the DREAM scoring system is better where the score based on the entire fight and not on rounds.
Winner: Diego Sanchez, split decision, ****

It was an ok show, with all but one of the fights going to decision although the Burns-Lytle and Sanchez-Guida fights were very good. Next up is UFC 100.

It really was a slow news week with not a lot happening. The only real news came during “Inside the Octagon” during the UFC Ultimate Fighter Finale. In that Dana White said that he would like to sign Vitor Belfort back to the UFC to face Anderson Silva. Now that would be an interesting fight. Vitor seems to have found his weight class at middleweight and is a dangerous stiker. I am not sure if he would beat Silva but it sure would be a great fight.

Well that does it for this week. We continue our countdown to UFC 100 next week when we look at Welterweight champion, and fellow Canadian Georges St. Pierre


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Bill Wannop
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