Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight strap-hanger, Frank Mir, will take on powerful grappler, Antonio Silva, this Sunday night (Feb. 22, 2015) on FOX Sports 1 from inside the Ginasio Gigantinho in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Mir hasn't won a fight inside the Octagon since ripping rival Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's arm apart back in 2011. Admittedly, Mir has been facing some of the best fighters inside the heavyweight division during that span, but he hasn't looked particularly good in any of those bouts.
Therefore, the former champ needs to get back into the win column if he wants to continue competing inside the Octagon. Otherwise, it's very likely that retirement is in Mir's immediate future.
Let's take a closer look at his skill set.
Mir has never been the most technical or explosive striker in the division, but he's experimented with his style quite a bit over the years. That's produced a few excellent striking moments across his career -- such as his thumping of Nogueira in their first bout, or putting Cheick Kongo on the mat in the opening 30 seconds -- but this portion of the breakdown will largely focus on Mir's kickboxing approach in his last few performances.
Since moving to Greg Jackson's gym prior to his loss against Cormier, Mir's kickboxing in the cage has reflected his karate background more so now than in the first half of his career. Mir's now moving with a bit more agility for the first time since he attempted to bulk up in order to take out the massive heavyweights of 2010.
Currently, Mir relies predominantly on his quick, straight punches. He looks to bounce in with these strikes and will occasionally follow them up with a wider, more powerful punch -- like a hook -- if they connect. At heavyweight, pretty much any punch can lead to a knockout, but Mir's straight shots mostly just establish his range.
Continuing with the karate influence on his attack, Mir is more active with his kicks. While he'll occasionally step hard into a body kick -- one of which clearly affected Cormier -- he's largely been shooting out fast kicks without much of a step.
Additionally, Mir is throwing a wider variety of kicks. He's occasionally throwing kicks off his lead leg and even attacked with a side kick against Overeem. Plus, he's following up these kicks with combinations of punches.
For much of his career, Mir has experienced a problem with being forced into the clinch, controlled, and dirty boxed. His solution to this may be imperfect, but Mir has greatly improved upon his Muay Thai clinch in an attempt to deter his opponent from pushing him into the fence.
When Mir is forced to strike from the clinch -- or chooses to, like he did against Mirko Filipovic -- he's pretty effective with his knees. By framing his opponent's face with his forearm or securing a double-collar tie, Mir is often able to deliver hard knees to the head or body.
This strategy fails when Mir is pushed all the way into the fence and then cannot create the space necessary to attack with knee strikes. This was the case in both the Cormier and Barnett fights, as both wrestlers grounded their foreheads into Mir's jaw and kept pressure on him the entire fight. From there, they consistently landed hard punches and elbows on a largely defenseless Mir.
Mir has always been a capable, if underwhelming wrestler. Despite this, Mir was a fairly successful wrestler in high school, as he won the state championship in his senior year.
The Nevada-native's best takedowns come from inside the clinch. While he usually looks for basic trips, Mir broke out some Judo against Roy Nelson. As "Big Country" looked to pressure Mir into the fence, Mir turned the big man's underhooks against him. By pressuring on his overhook, Mir could step across Nelson's body and toss him through the air.
In addition, Mir will also shoot for takedowns. Though he attempted a couple of single-leg takedowns against Junior dos Santos, Mir mostly sticks to his double leg. Against Alistair Overeem, Mir actually timed one of his shots very well, catching "The Demolition Man" with his feet out of position and dragging him down to the mat.
Otherwise, Mir likes to pin his opponent against the fence and work from there. Since he's generally not the quickest fighter, this helps eliminate that disadvantage.
Defensively, Mir has never really had a problem defending takedowns, in large part due to the fact that no one wants to grapple with him. Outside of Brock Lesnar, no one has taken Mir down since Marcio Cruz way back in 2006, according to Fightmetric.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
Mir is one of the best submission artists in UFC history. He not only possesses some smooth technique, but he's also known for simply cranking on any limb he can get his hands on and snapping something, regardless of whether or not the submission is fully locked in.
From his back, Mir likes to keep his guard open and put his feet on his opponent's hips. This allows him to spin around his foe and create angles. Similarly, if his opponent is standing above him, Mir will grab on to a foot before rolling under in pursuit of foot locks or sweeps.
For example, Mir did an excellent job of disarming Tim Sylvia in the bout that won him the undisputed title. Sylvia placed his arm on the mat when he took Mir down, which allowed the jiu-jitsu black belt to overhook his arm and trap it. From there, Mir unlocked his guard and swiveled his hips, pushing off the fence to further get the correct angle.
Once his hips were in the right position, Mir threw his leg across Sylvia's face. Now, here's where -- in classic Mir fashion -- it gets ugly. Despite that slick set up, Sylvia was able to shrink his arm a bit, which got his elbow out of correct position and loosened the pressure of Mir's legs on his head. In short, Sylvia put himself in a position that causes the vast majority of armbars to fail, often because most fighters will let go.
Instead of releasing the hold, Mir kept his grip on Sylvia's wrist and hipped in as hard as he could. As it turned out, Mir still held enough of Sylvia's arm to pop his elbow in unpleasant fashion, earning Mir his world championship.
In another example, Mir handed Lesnar his first UFC loss. After Lesnar softened Mir up a bit from top position, he stood over Mir's guard. Mir again rotated his hips, first away from Lesnar. Then, he brought his legs back toward the monstrous wrestler, reaping his knee and knocking Lesnar off-balance.
In an attempt to escape Mir's clutches, Lesnar turned away and looked to pull out. Because of this, Mir switched to a kneebar... except most of Lesnar's knee was out of the hold. Just like the Sylvia armbar, Mir ignored that pivotal fact and hipped in hard anyway, forcing Lesnar to submit.
While on the ground, Mir is constantly looking for openings. He stays very relaxed on the mat, which is the cause of some of his greatest victories and most brutal defeats. Even when taking damage, Mir is utterly calm and ready to strike.
The best example of a positive result from this mentality is Mir's incredible comeback against Nogueira. After being badly rocked by punches, Mir kept his cool and was ready to counter attack when Nogueira looked for his trademark sit out.
First, Nogueira dropped onto a guillotine and pulled guard. In a scramble, Mir landed on top but his Brazilian foe was still in on his legs. Nogueira attempted to do a sit out, which he used very successfully across his entire career. Instead, Mir pinned down Nogueira's wrist and locked in the kimura grip.
After securing the grip, Mir jumped across Nogueira, firmly establishing his top position. From there, he began cranking on the shoulder lock, but Nogueira resisted, eventually resulting in a torn shoulder. Had Mir failed to keep his wits about him under fire, this submission would never have presented itself.
On the other hand, Mir's comfort on the bottom got him hurt badly against Brock Lesnar. With the massive wrestler atop him, Mir probably should have been a bit more focused on his defense. Instead, he stayed rather calm, which allowed Lesnar to pin one of Mir's arms behind his back. Mir was trapped, and he suffered some brutal ground strikes en route to a knockout loss for his calm demeanor.
Best chance for success
Mir needs to rely on his quickness in this bout. In addition to submission skills, that's Mir's advantage in this bout. If the Las Vegas-based fighter wants to avoid another knockout loss, he needs to capitalize on it here.
If Mir is able to quickly bounce in-and-out with his punches, there's a few potential results. Most likely, "Bigfoot" will step up his aggression and pursue Mir with heavy punches. While certainly dangerous for Mir, it would make takedowns easier to land.
Alternatively, Silva could fail to adapt.
In that case, Mir can start to set up some of his more powerful punches. Considering Silva's gigantic head, Mir could definitely connect with a fight-changing power punch, assuming he sets it up well. Again, that could very likely lead to his submission grappling coming into play.
Above all else, Mir must use his speed to avoid the clinch. Otherwise, it's quite likely this fight goes the way of his bouts with Cormier and Barnett.
Will Frank Mir prove the odds wrong and return to the win column, or will Antonio Silva deliver a violent end to the former champ's UFC career?