UFC 146: Frank Mir's Career Could Come Full Circle If He Beats Junior Dos Santos
Ordinarily, a shot at the UFC heavyweight championship would be the biggest moment in any mixed martial artist's career. It's the pinnacle of the sport and often comes with the added bonus of being referred to as the "baddest man on the planet."
But for Frank Mir, his shot at Junior dos Santos' title is more of a case of, "been there, done that."
A former UFC heavyweight champion himself, Mir's career could come full circle with a victory on Saturday night as the 33-year-old attempts to win back the title that he won nearly eight years ago—a title he never actually lost.
His title reign began at UFC 48 when he shocked the world by defeating then-champion Tim Sylvia with a bone-crunching armbar, which forced the referee to stop the bout.
At 16-0 at the time, Sylvia and his 6'8" frame seemed to be practically unbeatable. It took an undersized jiu-jitsu expert to finally chop that giant down to size.
The victorious new UFC champion was riding high. That is, until a motorcycle accident nearly ended his life.
In September of 2004, just three months after his victory over Sylvia, Mir was knocked off his motorcycle by a car. The accident sent his body hurling to the pavement, where he broke his femur and tore every ligament in his knee—an athlete's worst nightmare.
With Mir out for an extended period of time, some wondered if he would ever return. The promotion created an interim heavyweight championship, which was won by Andrei Arlovski. The two champions were set to meet in 2005, but with Mir still physically unable to return, the bout was scrapped and Mir was finally stripped of his title after 14 months, leaving Arlovski to be named the new, undisputed champion.
Mir eventually worked his way back to the sport, but after three straight disappointing performances in 2006, it appeared as if the "real" Frank Mir would never return.
A regular athlete would've given up at that point, but Frank Mir was bound and determined to get back to the point that he was once at. His next two fights were nothing short of amazing as he finished both Antoni Hardonk and the debuting Brock Lesnar with first-round submissions.
But it was at UFC 92 when Mir finally got back to his prime.
Mir was given a shot at the UFC interim heavyweight championship, in a bout against fellow Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. On that night, Mir was nothing short of spectacular as he lit Nogueira up, displaying dramatically improved boxing in the process, eventually knocking the former Pride champion out in the second round.
Since that point, Mir's career has been up and down, but his only losses have come at the hands of Shane Carwin and Brock Lesnar—two of the biggest and strongest fighters in the history of the sport.
At UFC 146, for the first time in his career, Mir faces a champion who he actually outsizes by a significant margin. It'll be his chance to recapture the UFC heavyweight championship, which has evaded him for eight long years.
If he's successful, Mir's return to greatness can be considered one of the most amazing comeback stories in the history of the sport. Love him or hate him, you have to respect that he has even gotten back to this point—now we'll see if he still has what it takes to be the best in the world.
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