Ultimate Submissions: Breaking down the grappling attack of Frank Mir

Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir has been through several highs and lows in terms of success in his mixed martial arts career. From being in a terrible motorcycle accident to lackluster performances and all the way to winning the title, Mir is no stranger to the spotlight.

Since his professional debut in 2001, Mir has made waves throughout his career. It first started when he defeated Roberto Traven by armbar in his first fight with the UFC. Despite having a huge weight advantage over Traven, Mir submitted the sixth degree black belt and ADCC champion in just one minute and five seconds. Traven, a world champion in jiu-jitsu, was overwhelmed by his stronger and younger opponent.

Mir would then go on to retire Pete Williams with a shoulder lock. Williams was also a much-respected grappler and in just 46 seconds he was submitted by the rising star. After a brutal knockout at the hands of Ian Freeman, Mir would bounce back with four straight victories over Tank Abbott, Wes Sims (twice) and UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia.

Frank would suffer major damage to his legs in a motorcycle accident soon after winning the title. His femur was broken in two places as well as all the ligaments in his knee being completely shredded. He would rehab his knee and return to the Octagon only to go a disappointing 2-2 after his return.

He was finished in both of his losses.

Everything would change in 2008. Frank was matched up (and seemingly sacrificed) to the debuting Brock Lesnar in a fight that in all likelihood should have propelled Lesnar into superstardom. Mir had other plans, showcasing his world class jiu-jitsu again by tangling Lesnar in his web and securing a kneebar victory.

He would then face legendary PRIDE fighter Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and would be the first to stop "Minotauro" and in the process won the UFC Interim Division Title.

But the reason we are here today is to take an in-depth look at his career submission highlights. He has 14 wins: Eight by submission, and seven of those coming by way of different technique.

That's impressive.

The Shoulder Lock / Mir Lock


The shoulder lock requires a lot of upper body strength for it to be effective. When an opponent is lying in your guard and places his arms on your chest, that is the most effective set-up and start to the submission.

One of the most underutilized moves from elite guard players is pulling guard and Frank has found lots of success in doing so. He pulled guard in his fight with Pete Williams to avoid the kickboxing that led Mark Coleman to being knocked out by a head kick.

As soon as Mir pulled guard he started to get active on Pete’s arms.

When the clip starts, Frank Mir is already on bottom with Williams inside his guard. He has his legs hugging Williams' hips with his right leg in a more lock-down position of Williams' left leg and Frank’s right leg is positioned across Pete’s abdomen.


That is one of the keys to the submission.


Frank has an overhook on Pete’s right arm and has it deep. He forces that arm to bend and clasps his hands in his "Gable grip" and begins to crank the arm while pushing Pete’s body away with his hips and legs. Mir is well known for having very active hips and crushing power.


This submission demonstrates that well.


Usually in this position it is very difficult to finish the submission as shoulder cranks tend to be more for set-ups than finishers. If Williams brings his head down with that trapped arm he would be triangle choked in seconds.

Frank Mir Toe Holds Tank Abbott

I like to start toe holds from half guard which is the exact opposite of this next submission, but both ways are just as effective as the other. First let me say that toe holds rarely ever work at high levels of mixed martial arts even though they are the safest and simplest of leg locks. Mir being able to get one on Tank Abbott is a statement of how terrible Abbott’s ground game truly was.


The toe hold is basically the twisting of the instep and the foot and for the most part you want to grab the toes of the attacked foot and force them to bend. You want to use your other hand to swing under the leg and latch firmly on your attacking wrist. And usually you want to force the foot towards your opponent’s butt while keeping the toes bent down.

That should be enough torque to secure the tap out.

In this clip with Mir and Abbott you see Mir once again on his back. And once again the reason for that is he pulled guard. He first attacked Abbott with a triangle and transitioned into an omaplata which had Abbott completely off his base.


From the omoplata he begins to attack with the toe hold.


In the above clip you can see in the video (although poor quality) that Mir has a shoulder trapped with his omoplata. That takes away one whole side for Abbott to defend with. With that shoulder trapped, Abbott is basically stuck in that position, and while he tried to throw his free leg up and over it essentially does nothing.

Mir has the toe hold very tight and in true testament to his jiu-jitsu technique level he doesn’t use his body for extra torque. He keeps his whole torso flat on the ground not over committing his weight to any one side.

Frank Mir wins the title from Tim Sylvia


Now I won’t get into too much detail about the actual arm bar technique. If you would like to refer to my previous fanpost about armbars, I covered enough there so that if you have any technique questions they all should be covered there.

Frank Mir showed his bone crushing power when he faced Tim Sylvia for the heavyweight title at UFC 48. And once again we will start this clip after Mir pulls Tim into a clinch and pulls guard.

What is important to see here is the torque that Mir puts on the arm with his hips. You can see him thrust his hips towards the arm and using his upper body applies more pressure by pulling down on the arm. From a 245+ pound man to apply his weight with the hips you are bound to produce some very quality power behind a submission.


We all know the rest: Tim’s arm is broken and the referee stops the fight awarding Frank with the UFC heavyweight belt.


Frank Mir kneebars Brock Lesnar


Frank was pummeled early and often by Brock Lesnar in their first fight. Lesnar already had Mir down on his back twice, hammering him with big punches. Lesnar was spinning around with Mir on the ground from position to position, very excited, throwing down hammers


Brock then postured up and out and allowed Mir to start playing in his guard. Mir baited Lesnar in deep with a wide open guard and as soon as Lesnar took a step in, he closed up his web and tangled Lesnar up. He brought him to the ground firmly attached to the leg.


Lesnar and his inexperience had no choice but to tap out.


The win would propel Mir into an Interim title fight with Nogueira and continue him on his roller coaster career.

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