It is important for any fighter to mentally recover from a loss as best they can, and not let that loss dictate how they carry themselves moving forward. For young fighters still learning the nuances of the fight game and still gaining invaluable cage experience, that fact is simply a part of the game. Overcoming a loss, and in effect “getting back on the horse,” is easier for a prospect than it is for a veteran who has been fighting for years and potentially nearing the end of his career.
Mir, at only 31 years old, has a resume packed with impressive names and victories and a comeback from a motorcycle accident worthy of a Disney movie. He’s the man who showed Brock Lesnar that skill still prevails over brute strength, and he’s the man who dropped a legend in Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira en route to capturing the UFC interim heavyweight title just over two years ago. Despite his subsequent loss in the rematch with Lesnar, Mir looked as if he had secured a spot at the top of the heavyweight ladder, and could be a serious title contender for year to come.
A beating at the hands of Shane Carwin in which Mir looked completely outmuscled, and a lackluster win over a past-his-prime Mirko Cro Cop that drew the ire of UFC president Dana White has Mir staring at a make-or-break moment in his career. Beat Roy Nelson and reassert yourself as a legitimate contender worthy of continuing to swim with the sharks or at least try. Lose and be exposed as a fighter unable to compete with the new heavyweights of the UFC. Should that be the case, Mir will be faced with reevaluating his career and perhaps dropping down a weight class.
It’s not so much that the MMA game has passed Mir by, but that the heavyweight division has. Upon losing to Lesnar at UFC 100, Mir showed up to face Cheick Kongo noticeably thicker, and tipped the scales at just under the 265 lb limit, by far the heaviest of his career. His quick demolition and submission of Kongo put the heavyweight division on notice, Mir had reinvented himself, and it seemed he now had the size to go along with the skill. The weight gain clearly wasn’t good enough, however, and the loss to Carwin exposed Mir as a fighter that doesn’t possess the necessary raw power, just as he was in the loss to Lesnar.
I highlight Mir's last two losses (Lesnar and Carwin, respectively), because they are shining examples of Mir’s shortcomings as a heavyweight. Mir has hinted at the thought of moving down a weight class before, and should he prove unable to get past Nelson, Mir should seriously contemplate shedding his added pounds and dropping to light heavyweight, where he may find he can bully around some if not most of the crop in that division.
Roy Nelson has a different dilemma on his hands. He entered the UFC late in his career after holding the IFL heavyweight title and then losing back-to-back fights against Andrei Arlovski and Jeff Monson in other promotions. After winning The Ultimate Fighter Season 10, which he capped off with a devastating knock out of Brendan Schaub (who has come into his own), Nelson looked strong in sending another rising prospect, Stefan Struve, crumbling to the mat in at UFC Fight Night in March of 2010.
His loss to Junior Dos Santos at UFC 117 showed a few cracks in his armor. While he showed heart in carrying himself the distance, he was noticeably more beaten for it. He didn’t have an answer for Dos Santos’ speed and boxing, and seemed winded by the end of the third.
I never believed Nelson would win his season of The Ultimate Fighter (no, I did not pick Kimbo), and I’m impressed he’s come as far as he has. Though impossible to believe at first glance, there is an abundant amount of skill in that man’s body, and at this point, I would not be shocked to see his hand raised at the end of this next fight with Mir. Regardless, Nelson’s career takes a considerable hit if he loses.
He wants to make a serious run at the title and elevate his name among the division’s current elite, but at the age of 34, he can’t afford to be knocked down the ladder again in another “gateway” fight as he did in the loss to dos Santos. Nelson is clearly good enough to not simply belong in the UFC’s heavyweight division but thrive. The question remains whether he’ll end up a gatekeeper or bust through the gate.
Frank Mir and Roy Nelson face each other at critical times in their careers. For the winner, a future date with another title contender awaits. After that, depending on the outcome, a title shot isn’t out of the question. For the loser, a period of evaluation is at hand. At this point in either one's career, there is only so much drawing board space left.