History in the Making: Tim Sylvia and Brock Lesnar - the two submissions that changed Frank Mir's career

via mmainsane.com

During a time when the UFC heavyweight scene was dominated by wrestlers and stand-up specialists, Frank Mir with his Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) training stood out from the pack.

His victories over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Cheick Kongo might have actually caused some fans to forget that nearly all of his wins inside the Octagon have come by way of submission.

On May 28 at UFC 130: "Rampage vs. Hamill," he faces Roy Nelson another heavyweight with grappling chops to spare. The two have actually competed against each other in a grappling tournament with "Big Country" coming up the victor.

But revenge isn't the only thing at stake when they step into the cage. The winner of their fight will likely get a title shot early next year. For Nelson, it's uncharted territory. For Mir, it's a step back to where he has been before.

Today we'll take a look at the two submissions that changed Mir's career -- the bone-breaking win over Tim Sylvia that won him his first title and the come from behind kneebar he slapped on Brock Lesnar that reignited his stalling career.

Join me, won't you?

Andrei Arlovski had a broken hand.

So instead of fighting Tim Sylvia for the vacant heavyweight title at UFC 48: "Payback," the honor was given to Frank Mir.

The Las Vegas native had a near spotless record with the only blemish being a loss to Ian Freeman two years prior. And while beating Wes Sims doesn't seem like the kind of win that should catapult a fighter into title contention, the 206+-pound division in the UFC at the time wasn't exactly hearty.

In one of the few instances of a title fight not getting top billing, Mir's fight with Sylvia took place in the meat of the card, going on third.

"The Maine-iac" from some reason or another rushes Mir and attempts to take him down. Mir's BJJ training takes over and he immediately begins working for submissions from his back.

Sylvia begins to rain down punches from Mir's guard. An arm is caught and this marks the beginning of the end for the Miletich fighter.

Mir throws is legs up and slaps an armbar on his opponent. The technique isn't perfect, though. Mir doesn't have the leverage or the proper positioning to apply the submission as intended.

So what does he do? He just cranks the sucker back anyway.

Tim Sylvia's arm is broken in four different places.

The referee jumps and calls a stop to the bout. Everyone -- the audience, the commentators, and even the fighters -- are confused. There was no tap so why the stoppage?

A slo-motion replay a few second later reveals the truth. In a moment that will be etched in the minds of everyone who witness it, Sylvia's forearm pops out in sickening fashion. It bulges out in a manner that the human arm wasn't intended to bend in.

The audience immediately lets out an "OH!" realizing that yes, Frank Mir just snapped Sylvia's arm like a twig.

And in doing so, he became the UFC heavyweight champion.

A motorcycle accident derailed Mir's career for a couple of years and forced him to vacate his title without a single defense. When he came back, he looked worse for wear. He was out of shape and didn't look at all like the BJJ expert that submitted his way to the top of the UFC mountain.

Getting knocked out by Mauricio Cruz and Brandon Vera and looking awful in a win over Dan Christison, Mir's most impressive victory in this time was a submission win for Antoni Hardonk.

He looked like the Mir of old. He quickly got the fight to the ground and submitted his opponent in a little over a minute.

His next fight would end up providing his career with a second wind.

Four months prior, the UFC announced the signing of Brock Lesnar. And much like when the promotion resigned Tank Abbott in 2003, Mir was pegged as the first opponent.

And much like the Abbott fight, Mir played the spoiler to the UFC's plans.

A lazy kick is caught by the giant wrestler and he immediately takes the fight to the ground. Lesnar begins to hammer strike Mir into a bloody heap but the former champion keeps his wits about him.

In a move that some argue fundamentally changed the fight, the referee calls a stop to the action and penalized the Minnesota native for punching the back of the head.

It's not much but it's precious time Mir uses to recover. When Lesnar commences his attack, Mir is able to begin implementing his own gameplan and starts searching for submissions.

Braving the storm of Lesnar's fists, the former champ attempts an armbar that goes nowhere. But as Lesnar begins to posture up, the BJJ black belt grabs onto his leg and spins around.

Holding Lesnar's leg tightly against his chest, Mir begins to crank. The former WWE superstar tries to yank his limb out but instead falls to the mat. He raises his hand, hesitates for a moment, and then begins to tap.

Bloody and swelling, Mir stands up victorious.

That win would end up earning the former nightclub bouncer a coaching gig on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter opposite Interim Heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

When the season ended, the two submission experts did battle and Mir became the first man to stop the Brazilian. He also became a two-time heavyweight champion.

Can Mir make it back to the top for a third time? 

He has to get past Roy Nelson first. And then likely face either Shane Carwin, Junior dos Santos, or Cain Velasquez. Seems like a tall order.

But like Mir has shown in the past, it'd be wise not to count him out.

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