The year was 2004. Frank Mir had just become the UFC heavyweight champion after breaking former champion Tim Sylvia’s arm at UFC 46. And then it happened: the motorcycle accident three months later that forced the UFC to create an interim title fight while Mir was on the mend. In came Andrei Arlovski and Tim Sylvia for their first fight (the pair would eventually fight three times). In their bout at UFC 51, Arlovski secured the interim heavyweight title and secured a date to unify the belts in October 2005. But before Arlovski was able to meet Mir, Mir was stripped of his title after not being able to defend it for 14 months and Arlovski was promoted to the rank of undisputed heavyweight champion. Over the years, both men have found success and setbacks.
Arlovski would go on to have a trilogy with Sylvia in a time where the heavyweight title contenders were few and far between. He defended the belt once before losing it in the rematch with Sylvia. He found success in his first two fights outside of the UFC after his departure in 2008, but then ran into a career-high four-fight losing skid, with losses coming to Fedor Emelianenko, Brett Rogers, Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Sergei Kharitonov.
It looked like the end for the former UFC champion, but there was still life left in the “Pitbull.” Arlovski started working his way back up, competing in eight fights and racking up six victories with only one loss and one no-contest. That’s when Arlovski was welcomed back to the Octagon. His resurgence is evident in his latest stint with the UFC, where he has gone undefeated while knocking off top-tier competition. He’s had a rematch with Bigfoot, and he also defeated Brenda Schaub and the highly touted Travis Browne. Now, enter Mir.
Mir returned to the UFC in 2006 after almost two years away from the sport. The fight was a chance to see how Mir would be as a fighter after such a long layoff and serious injury. The result was less than desirable. Mir was defeated in two of his three fights, sandwiching a decision win over Dan Christison between losses to Marcio “Pe de Pano” Cruz and Brandon Vera. Both losses were first-round TKOs, and the future did not look very promising for the former UFC heavyweight champion. However, at UFC 74, with his back against the wall and doubters ready to pounce, Mir submitted Antoni Hardonk with a kimura in just 77 seconds and exclaimed to the camera, “I’m back!” Mir would go on to defeat Brock Lesnar and earn a spot in an interim title fight with none other than Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Mir defeated “Big Nog,” becoming the first man to stop the Pride legend via strikes. This set up Mir for his second crack at the UFC heavyweight title at UFC 100 against Lesnar, a man with whom he was all too familiar.
The former champ Mir failed in his bid for the title, but he got right back on track with a submission victory over Cheick Kongo, setting up yet another interim title shot, this time against Shane Carwin. Carwin knocked out the former champion and again set back Mir’s quest for gold. After winning his next three bouts, including breaking the aforementioned Nogueira’s arm at UFC 140, it looked as though Mir was back on track.
Then came the worst skid of his entire 27-fight career. Mir dropped a heavyweight title bout against Junior dos Santos and then lost bouts to current UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, Josh Barnett and Alistair Overeem. It looked to be the end of the road for Mir, but 2015 has proved to be the year of upsets. When Mir was matched up with Bigfoot at UFC Fight Night 61, it looked like the UFC was using him as a stepping stone for Silva. With Mir coming into the fight at 1-4 in his last five contests, no one was giving him a chance to beat Bigfoot, let alone do it in devastating fashion. Less than two minutes into their fight, though, Mir was being pulled off of Bigfoot after landing a beautiful combination and finishing the Brazilian on the ground with strikes.
Some called it a fluke. Others may say it was a lucky shot. But when it came time for Mir to take on powerful striker Todd Duffee in July at UFC Fight Night 71, Mir had something to prove. Just like in his fight with Bigfoot, Mir defied the MMA gods and knocked out his younger and stronger opponent in just over a minute. These two knockouts marked the first time in Mir’s career that he had achieved back-to-back knockout victories. What more could be in store for Mir? How about a fight that is now 10 years in the making and still remains relevant? How about a showdown with Arlovski?
Just like they were 10 years ago, both of these fighters are currently ranked in the UFC’s top 10 within the heavyweight division. Both fighters are on at least two-fight winning streaks against top-level competition and getting closer and closer to a title shot. Let me say that again: Arlovski and Mir are close to getting a UFC heavyweight title shot in 2015. That’s 10 years after either man last reigned as heavyweight champion.
At UFC 191, the fans will finally get to see a fight 10 years in the making. With a win, Arlovski could be next in line for a title shot. It wouldn’t be that far-fetched.
To address a Mir victory, one thing comes to mind: Retirement. Mir has had an amazing career. There is not a single fan who would disagree with this assessment. However, right now, Mir has already suffered losses to three of the men in the top 10. Most fighters would love to go out on a win, but Mir is the type of fighter who will fight until the day he dies if he’s allowed to do so. While it seems unlikely that he may obtain another shot at the ever elusive title, stranger things have happened. Remember, Randy Couture captured his title at age 43.
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