Frank Mir (16-7, 14-7 UFC) vs. Josh Barnett (32-6, 4-1 UFC)
A big-time co-main event with a lot of anticipation highlights the UFC 164 card as two former UFC Heavyweight Champions do battle. Mir looks to end a two-fight losing skid as he has dropped back-to-back fights to Junior Dos Santos, in a title fight, and Daniel Cormier. Mir is 3-2 over his last five fights. Barnett makes his much-anticipated return to the UFC, and he is coming off a win over Nandor Guelmino in Strikeforce in January. Barnett is 9-1 over his last ten fights dating all the way back to the end of 2006.
Fight Breakdown- Mir is one of those guys you’re either gonna love or you’re gonna hate, and he is one of the most entertaining personalities in the sport, and he has a gifted art of being able to build up a fight. The “Countdown To UFC 164” show had a lot of trash talk between Mir and Barnett, and it should lead to an interesting fight when they step inside the Octagon on Saturday night. Mir has experienced his fair share of ups-and-downs in his career. From the highs of being UFC Heavyweight Champion to the lows of being out of shape and sluggish looking following a bad motorcycle crash that forced him to vacate the title. He has fought for the title five times, and has had memorable moments- from breaking Tim Sylvia’s arm to win the title, submitting Brock Lesnar in Lesnar’s UFC debut, becoming the first man to knock out Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira to become a two-time champion, and then being the first man to ever submit Nogueira when he snapped Nogueira’s arm. Mir finds his back against the wall if he ever wants to fight for the title as he looks to end his two-fight losing streak.
Many thought we would never see Barnett grace the Octagon again following his exit from the UFC over ten years ago. You could say that his relationship with UFC President Dana White was not good, but Barnett re-signed with the UFC and is looking to make a run at the UFC Heavyweight Championship. It is a title he never lost in the Octagon. He won it from Randy Couture at UFC 36 in March 2002, but he was stripped of the championship following a failed drug test. Failed drug tests have hindered Barnett’s career in the past, and this may be his last shot at fighting at the highest-level. Following his UFC exit after being stripped of the title, Barnett fought all over the world for top organizations from PRIDE to Affliction to Strikeforce, and he returns to the highest stage at 35-years-old. Barnett is immediately a fresh contender in the heavyweight division, and there is no lack of interesting fights for him in the UFC, and that starts against Mir.
Neither fighter has a striking game that would lend fear to the other, though Mir does have some underrated power and is the better of the two on the feet. Both men like to use their striking to set up their grappling games, and it will be about which man can win the grappling battle. Barnett has excellent wrestling, as he uses a catch-as-catch-can wrestling style and utilizes his professional wrestling experience in knowing when to go for the takedowns. Mir is not by any means an even good wrestler, though it is a department that he has been looking to improve in. Barnett may not be the wrestler that Daniel Cormier is, and Cormier was able to use his wrestling background to control Mir on the feet. Barnett should utilize a similar approach as it will completely nulligate the striking of Mir. Mir had real trouble getting out of the clinch of Cormier, and Barnett’s wrestling gives him the advantage when they tie up against the cage.
Mir will obviously be looking for the submission if and when the fight hits the mat, and he has a strong case of being the best submission artist in the history of the heavyweight division. Barnett has a strong submission game himself, and he has never been submitted in his career. Barnett’s wrestling may force Mir to go for a submission from his back, and that could be a tough task for Mir. Barnett will unlikely be able to submit Mir, but Barnett could always find a choke, and it can be tough to fight off a choke no matter what belt rank you may hold in jiu-jitsu. Mir will need to control Barnett from his back, but that is easier said than done, and Barnett can be suffering from the top. Mir’s conditioning is always a question mark, and a wrestling battle will wear Mir out quickly and lean the fight towards Barnett. Barnett’s wrestling and him pushing the pace of the fight will give him the edge in what matches up to be a potentially entertaining battle.
Why It Matters- Another loss for Mir may permanently knock him out of the title picture in the UFC’s heavyweight division, and it could send Mir close to the end of his career. Sometimes you never know which Frank Mir will show up to fight. Will it be the Mir that finished Nogueira twice, or the one that was unable to compete with the likes of Junior Dos Santos and Daniel Cormier? That question will be answered on Saturday night, and Mir looks to answer that in a big way.
Barnett is looking to take back what he never lost, and that is the UFC Heavyweight Championship. He could be as few as one or two fights away from fighting for the title, and he looks to make a statement in his UFC return. This may be the last big run of Barnett’s career, and he looks to show that he still has the skill level to compete with the best in the heavyweight division. It’s not saying this is a must-win fight, but in Barnett’s mind it likely is, and he needs to treat it as such.
Tags: Frank Mir, Josh Barnett, Mixed Martial Arts, UFC, UFC 164