Ex-champ Frank Mir believes the current UFC heavyweight roster is stacked. | Photo: TJ De Santis/Sherdog.com
Before their UFC 191 matchup was announced, Frank Mir believed Andrei Arlovski had done enough to be named the heavyweight division’s No. 1 contender.
That’s why Mir was surprised when Cain Velasquez -- who was soundly defeated by Fabricio Werdum at UFC 188 -- was granted an immediate rematch against “Vai Cavalo.” After nearly two years on the sideline due to injury, Velasquez faded in the altitude of Mexico City before tapping to a Werdum guillotine choke 2:13 into the third round of their June 13 clash.
Meanwhile, Arlovski had re-established himself as a contender during a three-fight Octagon winning streak, including a memorable first-round technical knockout of Travis Browne at UFC 187. Considering that the Belarusian already had a built-in fan base from his first stint as a UFC champion approximately a decade ago, it seemed natural to capitalize on his popularity by putting him in a title fight.
At the very least, Mir thought, a fresh matchup might do the division some good.
“I thought it mixed up the division by having [Werdum] take over as champion. I actually thought Adnrei would get that title shot. I thought that was extremely interesting,” Mir said during a recent conference call. “But, for Cain to get the immediate rematch, the guy was a great champion, so I give him that opportunity. A lot of people want to say the oxygen was thin there [in Mexico City]. I don’t know. I wasn’t in Cain’s camp, so I don’t know how much that attributed to it. I know that Fabricio was fighting in the same oxygen.”
Mir also thought that his clash with Arlovski could have used a little more time to marinate. What was once regarded as a dream matchup when both men were in their championship heydays was officially announced with a little more than a month remaining before UFC 191. With both heavyweights rejuvenated and on winning streaks, a little extra time to promote the bout would have been nice. Or, in Mir’s ideal scenario, the fight with Arlovski would have been delayed so that the stakes could be even higher when they finally squared off in the Octagon.
“I thought that this fight had so much history behind it that maybe the buildup would have been longer than six weeks,” he said. “[Since] both of us represent the same qualities of persevering through adversity, I would have liked it if one of us had the title and one of us came up to challenge so many years later. I thought that would have been a much more interesting [story] than just kind of a hurried rush, with both of us at this point of our success.”
Although his showdown with Arlovski is something of a throwback fight and the heavyweight top 10 is littered with fighters older than 30, Mir believes the division is at its peak -- and that includes the era when he and Arlovski first made themselves known within the Las Vegas-based promotion.
The difference, Mir says, is depth.
“I think this year right now is the best it’s ever been,” Mir said. “In the past you’ve always had top level guys, but after four or five it dwindled off. Right now there’s guys that are ranked 12th, 13th, 14th and great fighters in the heavyweight division. I think the top 10 is extremely stacked. I think it’s the most stacked it’s ever been.”