Last night (Aug. 31, 2013), two of the finest grapplers in mixed martial arts (MMA) history met face-to-face when Josh Barnett and Frank Mir squared off in the pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event of UFC 164 from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
While many mixed martial arts (MMA) fans hoped to see a ground war unfold to see just who the best Heavyweight submission artist truly was, the exact opposite actually transpired. Barnett, making his long-awaited return to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) since having his Heavyweight title stripped because of a drug test failure, looked all the part of the devastating "War Master" who has only tasted defeat once in his past 11 bouts.
It was a statement win for Barnett so let's review his stoppage of Mir at BMO Harris Bradley Center.
The two fighters appeared to have no love lost between them, as the customary pre-fight touching of gloves was forgone. The fight began swiftly, as Barnett took a page out of Daniel Cormier's book to shove Mir up against the cage with his catch wrestling pedigree. Barnett showed quick and diverse striking for a man of his stature, and began to find a home for several devastating uppercuts.
As soon as it began, it was over.
"War Master" had Mir's head pinned in the clinch, and capitalized by nailing the former Heavyweight champ with a massive bomb of a knee. As Barnett went to finish the fight with ground strikes, the referee had already arrived to waive the fight off. Mir protested, but Barnett had already made a successful and true-to-form Octagon return in violent, destructive fashion.
The victory over the No. 6-ranked Mir will have Barnett looking for another victim near the top of the Heavyweight division. Just whom he gets will be interesting to find out, because even at an advancing 36-years old, Barnett appears to be in excellent shape. Although he was thoroughly dominated by Cormier in the finals of the Strikeforce World heavyweight Grand Prix, Barnett has largely run through all other competition.
A bout again Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion Fabricio Werdum would be another submission wizard that Barnett would enjoy adding to his list. Werdum is awaiting his next assignment after dispatching Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC on FUEL TV 10 this June, so that matchup could make immediate sense for the UFC. Another name that could be a great test for Barnett is the up-and-coming prospect Travis Browne, who recently knocked out former Strikeforce and DREAM Heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem.
If neither of those materializes, Barnett could face off with his fellow former Pride veteran Overeem. The possibilities are numerous, and potentially exciting.
As for Mir, he'll have to re-evaluate if he can truly continue fighting on with the best Heavyweights the promotion has to offer. At the post-fight press conference (watch it here), Mir claims he was "screwed" by what he felt was an early stoppage, but there's not much doubt that he would have continued to eat power shots were he allowed to continue.
After making a camp change to utilize Greg Jackson's tutelage, the move appears to have been the wrong one, as Mir sits winless (0-2) with his new team. Both losses were to top-level competition, but Mir has now lost three in a row. He'll most likely want to get back on track with an easier challenge, so perhaps he could fight Overeem, or even a name like Ben Rothwell, who stopped Brandon Vera earlier on last night's main card, comes to mind.
No matter whom he faces next, Mir will have to come in focused and effective if he wants to keep fighting on in the Octagon.
"War Master" put on a show for the Milwaukee fans when he dispatched Mir in brutal fashion at UFC 164. What did you think of his performance and who should be next on his list of foes?