Frank Mir has more heavyweight wins than any fighter in UFC history. | Photo: Sherdog.com
Thoughts of championship gold never stray far from the mind of Frank Mir.
The 34-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt will meet fellow former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight titleholder Josh Barnett in the UFC 164 co-main event on Saturday at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee. While Mir has suffered consecutive defeats for the first time in his career, he remains steadfast in his desire to reach the mountaintop one more time.
“I’m trying to put on great fights, but an outcome of my drive is to work back towards the title,” Mir said in a pre-fight media call for UFC 164. “I don’t see a situation where it’s no longer in my grasp. Being only 34 years of age, I don’t see it as a secret. I don’t want to be just another fighter on the card.”
Mir, who has thrown out his anchor at Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts in Albuquerque, N.M., last appeared at UFC on Fox 7 in April, when he lost a unanimous decision to the unbeaten Daniel Cormier at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. A two-time Olympic wrestler, Cormier trapped Mir in a suffocating clinch, landing 102 of his 139 attempted strikes, according to FightMetric figures.
“I have more confidence in the training I have,” Mir said. “Just because you do it in training doesn’t mean you can do it when the lights are on. Cormier isn’t much of a finisher, but it allowed me to stay in there long enough to realize my gas tank was pretty good. I had confidence in the third round, but I wish I had it going into the fight.”
MMA enthusiasts have for years fawned over a hypothetical matchup between Mir and Barnett, two of the premier submission grapplers of all-time. “The Warmaster” became UFC champion in March 2002, four months after Mir entered the promotion, but their paths never crossed in the cage. A positive test for anabolic steroids resulted in Barnett being stripped of his title and exiting the UFC. He has not competed inside the Octagon in the more than 11 years that have passed since.
“Obviously, we’re all fighting to eventually become champion again,” Mir said. “Josh was champ when I got into the UFC, so we look at each other a bit differently. I look at it as bragging rights to have a victory over someone like Josh, with where he was when I came in and with what he’s accomplished in his career.
“I think if we would have fought back then, I’d have to give the fight to Josh,” he added. “I wasn’t as mentally strong back then. [My mental strength] has developed over the years. It’s something you work on. Maybe if the first couple of submission attempts would have failed for me, I’d have been in a lot of trouble if we fought in 2002.”
Therein lies Mir’s challenge. In 38 professional bouts, Barnett has never been submitted by traditional punches, and he has been knocked out only once. Mir faced similar doubts prior to his two clashes with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. He stopped the beloved Brazilian with punches at UFC 92 and submitted him with a kimura in their rematch at UFC 140.
“I think I’ve stopped people before that had never tapped, that had never been stopped via submission,” he said. “You have to have knowledge of what people are capable of, but at the same time, you can’t let it nullify your offense. You can’t let respect cause apprehension and make you hesitate. Maybe I’ll put four, five, six attempts chained together. Obviously, I don’t see Josh falling victim to the first submission attempt I jump on, but that doesn’t mean I won’t attempt it anyways.”
After three consecutive first-round knockouts, Team Alpha Male’s Chad Mendes has effectively shed the “boring wrestler” label.
Mendes will lock horns with Clay Guida in a 145-pound showcase at UFC 164, with an eye towards a rematch with reigning featherweight champion Jose Aldo. In his last three appearances, the 28-year-old Hanford, Calif., native has leveled Cody McKenzie, Yaotzin Meza and Darren Elkins, all in less than two minutes.
Guida poses a myriad of challenges. A staple in the UFC since he arrived in the promotion in 2006, the former lightweight has never been stopped by strikes in his 43-fight career.
“Guida is a guy that’s been in the UFC for a long time and has a huge following,” Mendes said in his pre-fight interview with UFC.com. “He is well-known for the crazy pace he sets in his fights. He relies a lot on his wrestling and foot movement to win fights. I believe with my speed, power and wrestling background I should be able to nullify his dancing around and finish this fight. A win over a guy like Guida will put me right back in line for a title shot.”
This & That
The BMO Harris Bradley Center, which opened in 1988, is home to the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, the American Hockey League’s Milwaukee Admirals and the Marquette University men’s basketball team ... Benson Henderson trains under the MMA Lab’s John Crouch, who in 2005 was awarded his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt by UFC hall of famer Royce Gracie ... Ben Rothwell was a perfect 9-0 inside the International Fight League, including wins over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 8 semifinalist Krzysztof Soszynski (twice), former UFC heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez and “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 winner Roy Nelson ... Dustin Poirier and Erik Koch have combined for 16 first-round finishes in in 31 professional appearances between them ... American Top Team’s Gleison Tibau ranks second on the UFC’s all-time list for takedowns landed with 69, trailing only longtime welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre (84) ... Soa Palelei operates out of Perth, Australia, nearly 11,000 miles from the BMO Harris Bradley Center ... A quarterfinalist on Season 14 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” flyweight Louis Gaudinot graduated from Seton Hall University with a degree in Criminal Justice ... Korean Top Team welterweight Hyun Gyu Lim has finished his last six opponents, five of them inside one round ... When Roufusport’s Chico Camus was born on Jan. 26, 1985, the top five movies at the box office were “Beverly Hills Cop,” “The Falcon and the Snowman,” “A Passage to India,” “Micki and Maude” and “Tomboy” ... Serra-Longo Fight Team export Al Iaquinta is a protégé of former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra and a teammate of current UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman ... Jared Hamman played college football at the University of Redlands, a Div. III school in Redlands, Calif.