The co-main event at UFC 164 features a matchup between two well-known heavyweights in the MMA community. The fight between Frank Mir and Josh Barnett is intriguing for multiple reasons. Not only are these two of the best jiu-jitsu practitioners in the heavyweight division, but this is one of those rare fights that has been discussed for over a decade now. Each man has held the UFC world championship and they hold an incredible 29 submission victories between them. Past circumstances have kept these two big men from getting in the cage with each other for quite some time now, but the fact that they finally have the chance to go at in on Saturday night is cause for all longtime UFC fans to be happy. They were just young men when they arrived in the company, and although they have since battled legends and held world titles, the confidence and bravado each man carried with them into the cage in their early twenties has never left. These are two of the better heavyweight trash-talkers, and although no legitimate animosity exists between them, their personalities simply could not allow them to miss the opportunity to take a few verbal jabs at each other. Even though the war of words always adds a fun element to the contest, this is not the reason why fans will be tuning in on the 31st. These are two of the best heavyweights out there with amazing skill sets. At their age, only one more solid run at the championship is really feasible. Neither guy has anything left to prove or any more glory to capture, so I believe the winner will truly be decided by which man is hungrier and more determined to prove to himself that he can still rule the heavyweight landscape.
Mir can never be counted out at this point. Although he has been a tad inconsistent lately, he is still one of the few fighters who made his UFC debut over ten years ago that has not faded into obscurity. Even though he has been known to put on a few lackluster performances, he always seems to redeem himself a few fights later with either a stellar knockout or submission. He debuted at UFC 34 back in 2001 with a reputation for a crafty ground game. In just his first four fights, he had already won a fight by armbar, shoulder lock, and toe hold, each one just about a minute into the first round. He then submitted Tim Sylvia in 2004 to become the heavyweight champion at UFC 48. Unfortunately, Mir was involved in a serious motorcycle accident shortly after the biggest victory of his life. He was on the shelf for two years, and he suffered first-round knockouts by Marcio Cruz and Brandon Vera as soon as he returned. Although he had been written off at that point, he went on to knock out Minotauro Nogueira at UFC 92 to reclaim his belt. He was written off once again after getting dismantled by Brock Lesnar in the main event of UFC 100 in 2009, but he simply packed on some muscle and choked out Cheick Kongo a mere five months later, putting him right back in the title picture. Mir became another one of Shane Carwin’s knockout victims at UFC 111, and after coming up short in his third title shot, people once again assumed that his days of contention were over. However, in typical Mir fashion, he rattled off three consecutive wins over quality competition to earn himself ANOTHER championship opportunity against Junior Dos Santos at UFC 146. Even though he came up short that night and followed that up with a decision loss to Daniel Cormier about a year later, Mir has proven time and time again that he can always surprise people. He is now on the first two-fight skid of his career, and if he wants to prevent it from getting to three, he will have to show the world that he has more left in the tank than his opponent.
After Barnett defeated Randy Couture for the heavyweight title back at UFC 36 in 2002, he left the company before he could even defend it. He debuted in 2000 at UFC 28 and posted a 4-1 record with company. In 2002, he opted to take his talents to Japan where he had an illustrious career in Pride. He took on some of the biggest names in MMA and scored big wins over quality opponents such as Nogueira and Mark Hunt. Once Pride folded, Barnett became somewhat of a journeyman. From 2008 to 2010, he scored six straight victories in four different organizations, preserving his rank as one of the best in the world. Barnett finally found a stable home in 2011 when he signed with Strikeforce. He was entered into the eight-man heavyweight grand prix, where he notched two submissions on his way to the finals. He came up short to Cormier in the finals, a five-round war where he broke his hand early on. It was Barnett’s first loss in six years, and fans were wondering where he would be heading once Strikeforce folded as well. He submitted Nandor Guelmino in the first round on Strikeforce’s final event, and announced shortly afterwards that he had no immediate plans to sign with the UFC. While this decision was met with massive disappointment, the UFC was able to work its magic and convince Barnett to finally test himself against the fellow elite. He was one of the few guys who maintained top-ten status outside of the UFC by taking out relevant competition on a consistent basis. He now has the chance to prove his worth when he makes his long-awaited return to the company he once ruled. Either man could land a shot and put their foe out at any given time, plus it will be interesting to see the grappling aspect play out. I think the key for Barnett will be to use his wrestling and maintain top control because his takedown ability is the one area of the fight where he has a huge advantage. However, Mir has won many fights off his back, including the first time he won the belt. This fight would have made sense at pretty much any point in time over the last decade, but nobody is complaining about seeing it go down now. Barnett’s addition definitely beefs up the division, but if he really does want to make an impact, it has to start with a win over a former champion on Saturday night.
Who do you guys think will win this fight between two veteran heavyweights? Leave a comment or let me know @Devin_Intravid. Also, make sure to follow @Intravid for constant updates and new blogs from all your favorite fighters. Thanks for reading.