Last night (Aug. 31, 2013) at BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisc., Frank Mir suffered a first round technical knockout loss to Josh Barnett in the UFC 164 co-main event (watch full video highlights here). While it was pretty clear that Barnett was going to finish the fight, it ended in controversy as some believe that stoppage was a bit premature.
The ending sequence saw Barnett land a crisp knee to the face that dropped Mir to the mat very awkwardly. "War Master" followed up with a few punches before the referee dove in and waved off the fight. Almost immediately, Mir was back to his feet claiming an early stoppage.
The loss marks Mir's third straight, with the previous two coming at the hands of Daniel Cormier and Junior Dos Santos, two of the top fighters in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight division. It also will likely push Mir outside of the Heavyweight Top 10, a first since picking up a win over Brock Lesnar at UFC 81 in 2008.
The question isn't if Mir has still got it. No, he's still one of the best heavyweight fighters in the world and is a tough matchup for many up and coming fighters in the division.
The question is what does the UFC do with a guy who is on a three fight skid and SEVEN career technical knockout losses inside the Octagon?
We've heard many fighters come back and claim that they weren't out and the stoppage was premature. We've heard fighters say they were looking for single legs when it was clear they were out. The problem is that it's happening quiet often with Mir. Every stoppage is early and he's somehow working his way back to his feet or to advance his position.
Fighters can say the referee should allow them to fight out of whatever precarious position they find themselves in, but that's not the referee's job. The referee's job first and foremost is to ensure a fighter's safety. And if a fighter has a history of being TKO'd, the third person in the cage should always err on the side of caution.
Which brings us back to the UFC and Frank Mir.
Mir still carries name value for a promotion that does most of their business on pay-per-view (PPV) and when it needs to fill out fight cards with recognizable fighters, he's always going to be in consideration for a main card spot. It's just the nature of the business.
But, when a fighter loses three straight in the UFC, that's usually followed up by a phone call from Joe Silva, the UFC's Vice President of Talent Relations, wishing them well in their future endeavors. Does UFC want to continue booking Mir, one of the more expensive contracts on the roster, against high level opponents?
And if they do, will those bouts be competitive?
In all of his seven technical knockout losses in the Octagon, Mir was on the receiving end of an absolute beating. When pressured, he falters and when overwhelmed, he turtles up. He's just a fighter that doesn't handle damage well.
That also doesn't include all the sub-concussive damage that Mir has endured in his UFC career. The first bout with Lesnar saw Mir take numerous blows to the back of the skull, which though weren't legal, still add up when talking about damage to the brain.
Same with his second bout with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, where 'Big Nog' had Mir out before the incredible come from behind submission that broke Nogueira's arm. And let us not forget the first bout with Wes Sims, which ended in disqualification because Sims stomped Mir's face.
There comes a time when a fighter's longterm health needs to be taken into consideration beyond PPV buys and wins and losses. Those technical knockout losses are starting to add up and it may be time to start thinking about transitioning Mir away from the cage and toward the broadcast booth.
He did a great job whenever he was given the chance to commentate events for World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) and is by far one of the most analytical fighters. This doesn't have to be a goodbye, but last night should serve as the jump off for a different career inside the same industry.
The last that he wants to be is fodder for up and coming fighters to pick up a name win on their way up the ranks. That's no way for a former champion to go out.