Former UFC heavyweight champ Frank Mir was set to fight a living Pride FC legend this Saturday in Indianapolis for UFC 119. Before Mir's opponent was up in the air, UFC 119 was a platform for two heavyweights to prove beyond a doubt that their first bout nearly two years ago was or wasn't a fluke--depending on which perspective is being used.
Back at UFC 92, Antonio "Minotauro" Nogueira was pitted against Frank Mir in a battle between a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) icon and a formidable practitioner of the art in an interim–champion bout. Mir was open about his admiration for everything the seasoned Nogueira had done, not only for BJJ, but for mixed martial arts in general throughout the years.
Looking back at the event's pre-fight Countdown series, the typically presumptuous Mir was quick to show a lesser confident side, proclaiming his utmost respect for the elder statesman, almost to the point where adoration had blurred into some fearful uncertainty.
As we all remember, the outcome was favorable to the newly crowned interim belt holder, squashing all previous doubt. Mir outclassed Nogueira from the beginning to the end, showcasing quicker hand speed and footwork that led to the type of victory over the Brazilian that no other fighter could claim—a TKO stoppage.
After falling to the mat for his first unconscious defeat, many pundits started wondering how many more miles were left in Nogueira, who has become notorious for being able to withstand insurmountable punish throughout his 11 year career. That loss was more than likely the turning point in the wrong direction for Nogueira, a testament to the organic decline that all men—not named Randy Couture—face at some point in their lives.
It's hard enough to stay in top physical form in your older years, especially for someone whose body has been through a gauntlet of punishment in a combat sport. For Nogueira, being 34 years old is not physically comparable to the 34-year-old pencil-pushing desk jockeys of the world. To make matters worse, the mileage is pretty evident at this stage of the Brazilian's career, so much that people have questioned the authenticity of his age.
To be fair, Mir's performance was slightly skewed by the fact that Nogueira went into that fight with serious injuries, staph infection to name the obvious culprit. But so what, every fighter gets injured, it's part of the game. There's no need to start waving the white flag on Nogueira's career just yet, right?
The explanation goes slightly beyond that and into certain observational patterns older fighters begin to fall into later in their careers, a difficult sign for most top guys to ignore. When a fighter is only stepping into the octagon twice a year, has questionable performances--or at the very least, inconsistent performances--and finds himself plagued with injury more frequent than not, it might be a telling sign.
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