Frank Mir has been there before. His back is against the proverbial wall. He has heard all about the hype of his opponent. He knows that he is being overlooked by the masses of fans and experts alike. On April 20th, 2013 in the co-main event, Frank Mir will once again step into the fabled Octagon to do battle with Daniel Cormier, the heavyweight division's supposed next superstar.
Though Cormier isn't exactly the young gun on the block—the 34-year-old will be making his UFC debut after surprisingly winning the Strikeforce Grand Prix as a replacement by defeating Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva and Josh Barnett. Cormier also boasts a tremendous wrestling pedigree; he represented the United States twice as an Olympic wrestler.
Mir enters this contest knowing that if he doesn't win, he will be pushed to the back half of the top 10. A win over Cormier puts him right back into title contention while a loss all but ends his title fight aspirations.
Though he is coming off a championship loss at the hands of then-champion Junior dos Santos, Mir has never lost back-to-back fights in his career. With Mir's age and bearing in mind how few times the UFC heavyweight title is actually defended, Mir knows that a loss to Cormier would all but eliminate his chances of competing for the championship anytime in the near future, if ever again at all.
Mir has responded to this adversity by challenging himself and distancing himself from what he is familiar to. Mir chose to hire one of the most successful MMA trainers, Greg Jackson, to take his training seriously again and maybe to a whole other level. Jackson's camp has produced a plethora of top-ranked fighters and champions from various weight classes and is acknowledged for expert game-planning and strategy.
Fighting a guy with Cormier's hype is not unfamiliar territory to Mir—he is no stranger to this type of adversity. He was supposed to be little more than a speed bump in the career of a returning Tank Abbott. Then Mir was sent out to be the sacrificial lamb in the debut of former WWE superstar Brock Lesnar. Simply put, Mir answered the challenge each time with a stunning submission victory.
Mir is one of the most well-rounded fighters on the UFC heavyweight roster. Mir will have an eight-inch reach advantage multiplied by a five-inch height advantage over Cormier and a very dangerous ground game in terms of submissions. One of the most important and possibly overlooked factors in this showdown is that this will be Mir's 21st fight in the Octagon compared to Cormier making his first appearance in the UFC. Mir has the skill to defeat Cormier, but once again, Mir's conditioning will be his biggest question mark.
Cormier enters this fight ever-so confidently as he has delivered a perfect record of 11-0 in his MMA career.
With all of the chatter about Cormier competing in a championship fight at either light-heavyweight or heavyweight, the best strategy for Cormier would be to not overlook Frank Mir because as it is said, the most important fight is your next fight.
A win for Cormier will push him to a title fight as has been repeatedly mentioned, and that fight would more than likely take place against Jon Jones.
A loss, though, would really be a giant set-back for Cormier. His résumé would not be very strong to keep him near the top five in the heavyweight division and would eliminate all of his momentum. A loss in that situation might only leave him an opportunity at light-heavyweight for climbing into a title fight but would require multiple wins. Another question is that at 34, would he be able to acquire a winning steak worthy of a title fight?
The most intriguing question, though, is how Daniel Cormier will decide to fight. Will he stand and trade with Mir as he has shown he is capable of doing, or will he take his chances with the most dangerous submission artist in the heavyweight division by attempting to take him to the canvass?
While Cormier is known for being an Olympic wrestler, he doesn't appear to be the takedown artist people think of him as (executing only 43% of his attempts). His wrestling appears to be more defensive because taking him down is a much different story. Cormier has defended opponents' takedown attempts 100% of the time.
With each man having so much to lose and gain depending on the outcome of this fight, it should be easy to predict that this fight will deliver in terms of entertainment. In the end, though, there can only be one winner.