There comes a time in every former champion's career when he has to analyze if he truly belongs with the newest generation of elite warriors, or come to the realization that his best days have subsequently passed him by.
An upcoming bout embodies that particular question for the former two-time heavyweight champion, Frank Mir. A match that will determine if he will continue to challenge the best fighters of today or begin to fade away into the sunset.
Mir has a well documented history with the UFC, reigning as their longest tenured heavyweight. It is common knowledge that he has the most submission wins by any UFC heavyweight with eight. It is even more widely known that Mir resurrected his career after a motorcycle accident which nearly took away his identity as a martial artist, causing years of his fighting career to be forfeited to recovery.
Up to this point in Mir's career, he has overcome the trials and tribulations, defeating the odds while regaining his identity and even recapturing the UFC heavyweight championship at one point. Mir has evolved with the sport and has remained a top contender throughout his career.
However, after another failed attempt of capturing a third UFC heavyweight championship against Junior dos Santos, Mir is staring adversity directly in the eye once again.
In order to remain relevant in the title picture, Mir has accepted a one time only move to Strikeforce in order to battle against the fast-rising championship contender and newly crowned Strikeforce Grand Prix champion, Daniel Cormier.
Not only is this particular opponent a very difficult test but it is also set to take place on November 3rd in his opponent's home away from home, Oklahoma City. The place where Daniel Cormier made a name for himself as an elite wrestler while attending Oklahoma State University.
Cormier is currently undefeated, riding a 10-fight win streak. Even more impressive is that Cormier is a relative novice to mixed martial arts while rising to be a legitimate championship contender and vastly improving each time he steps inside of the cage.
Cormier also has a strength he can always rely on just as his opponent does, and if you prefer word games—Mir is to jiu-jitsu as Cormier is to wrestling.
Mir has displayed an inability against strong wrestlers in the past, most notably Brock Lesnar at UFC 100 as he was held in position. His next opponent has an even superior pedigree than Lesnar in terms of wrestling and overall skill. Though, comparing Cormier and Lesnar is like comparing apples to oranges due to the fact that Lesnar was a much larger and stronger man.
For Mir, this is the fight that he needs to make a stand and erase the aura of doubt that fans have built around him. He needs to not only defeat Daniel Cormier, but he has to make a bold statement as he did against Antoni Hardonk at UFC 74. He needs to prove to the world and the UFC that the real Frank Mir is back.
Though many feel as if Mir has been sliding of late, his most recent losses dating back to UFC 100 have only come to the No. 1 or No. 2 ranked fighters in the UFC at the time he fought them. All championship fights. Lesnar defeated him at UFC 100 for the heavyweight championship. Carwin defeated him at UFC 111 for the interim heavyweight championship. He then barely escaped Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 140 before he was utterly picked apart by the current champion, Junior dos Santos, at UFC 146.
The common theme in those contests have resulted in Mir developing a reputation for not having a strong chin as all six of his professional losses resulted from punches in form of knockout or technical knockout, even though his losses came against some of the strongest men in the division.
Only making matters worse for Mir, Daniel Cormier doesn't lack strength in the power department either. Cormier has won six out of his 10 fights with his surprisingly powerful punches. Along with his damaging hands, he moves very well for a heavyweight, and one cannot dispute how quickly his stand-up game has evolved since he began his MMA career.
When you add it up for Mir, even with the stronger resume, better credentials and vast experience, one has to recognize that this fight favors Daniel Cormier, making this contest imperative for Mir to achieve victory. It's make or break for the former champion if he wants to make another run at the heavyweight title.
If Mir has any hope of winning this fight, he has to be mentally and physically prepared. He has to dedicate himself to his training and preparation as if he isn't competing in another fight ever again. Mir has to anticipate a fast-paced, five-round fight, understanding that his cardio has to be on point. Cutting weight to around 245-250 pounds would help Mir not only in cardio but movement on his feet and scrambling on the mat to create room to work his submission game.
It will be very critical in this contest for Mir to utilize his advantages, starting with the eight-inch reach advantage he possesses over Cormier which is only multiplied by his 4" height advantage. Mir needs to change up his attacks and use combinations to keep the smaller Cormier off balance and outside of the pocket.
Probably the single most important aspect of this fight will be Mir's aggression. He cannot sit around and wait for Cormier to decide when and how to attack. Josh Barnett displayed continued success when attacking first, taking the stand-up fight to Cormier. It might be a cliche in the fight world, but Mir has to be first.
The outcome of this fight fully depends on how dedicated Frank Mir is to mixed martial arts today. Mir has the skills to stay relevant in the heavyweight division for years to come but his mental and physical preparation is the key to success. A loss will set him back to a point that he will probably never have another opportunity to challenge for a championship, and that is a mindset that Mir needs to fully grasp and use for motivation.
Even though Daniel Cormier is an extremely challenging opponent, Mir has every tool necessary to defeat him. Simply meaning for Frank Mir—gut check time is now.