Last night, at UFC 130, Frank Mir completely dominated Roy Nelson to take home a one-sided unanimous decision victory. With a combination of superior striking, takedowns, and ground work, Mir left no doubt in anyone's minds who was the superior fighter. It was undeniably an impressive performance and an impressive win. Then, in the post-fight interview, Joe Rogan asked Mir one of his stock questions - what next? And Frank Mir responded with essentially the same answer he has responded to that question with for over five years now - get back my title. This begs the obvious question - can Frank Mir regain the Heavyweight championship?
In recent years, Mir has found himself very close to that Heavyweight belt on more than one occasion. At UFC 100, he had a shot to unify his Interim belt with the real thing, but Brock Lesnar put a stop to that. At UFC 111, he again had a chance to claim the Interim title and guarantee himself a rubber match with Lesnar, but this time it was Shane Carwin who ended the run. And this is where the doubt comes in. When Frank Mir has been stopped in recent years, he has been stopped by bigger, more explosive fighters who have violently put an end to his night. With the win over Nelson, Mir reestablishes his claim as the clear #5 man in the UFC Heavyweight division. But look who is above him. Shane Carwin. Junior dos Santos. Cain Velasquez. Brock Lesnar (if he returns). All explosive fighters, and, with the exception of Cain, all giant men whose natural size poses a serious problem for Mir. It's hard to envision a 2nd Carwin fight ending differently for Mir, just as it is hard to see a Mir vs. dos Santos fight ending in anything other than Mir KO'd.
But that fact won't stop Frank Mir. He will continue to fight for that belt. And that's what makes him such a great fighter to watch.
Mir's journey back up the Heavyweight ranks has been a truly epic quest. His first Heavyweight title run, way back in 2004, came easily - maybe too easily. His early wins followed a simple format - get to the ground, and show off jiu jitsu skills that his Heavyweight opponents had no answer for. It was impressive, culminating in the gruesome snapping of Tim Sylvia's arm, but it also didn't force Mir to overcome adversity in his fights. Then, in September 2004, his promising career was stopped dead in its tracks by the motorcycle accident. And suddenly, Frank Mir knew adversity. The fact that he came back at all was impressive, but his comeback was a disaster. Two first round TKO losses, and a terrible plodding victory that he would love to forget. Mir realized that coming back alone was not enough - he had to come back and win. He refocused, rededicated himself, and with his spoiling win over Brock Lesnar at UFC 81, he was suddenly back in the title picture.
And this is where his journey starts to get really interesting, because Mir realized that the skills he had would not be enough to beat his next opponent, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. So he focused on his striking skills. And it worked - the new stand-up fighting version of Mir outstruck Nogueira to win the huge upset. He had another setback after the Lesnar loss, and again made an adjustment - this time looking to add bulk in order to compete with the Lesnars of the Heavyweight division. That plan earned him the Carwin shot, but it wasn't enough to get past Shane. And again, Frank Mir went back to the drawing board.
Against Roy Nelson, we saw yet another Frank Mir - the complete fighter putting all the elements together. At UFC 130, Mir used every skill in his arsenal, turning in one of the single most impressive performances of his career. This was not an easy submission, not dominating one aspect of the game - for maybe the first time in his career, this was Frank Mir as a true mixed martial artist, bringing it all together. And once again, Mir has found himself back in the title picture, and again within reach of that elusive crown.
Will this new batch of talents be enough for Mir to finally complete his journey and get that belt back - the belt that has eluded him for seven long years? History says it's a long shot. No one has ever regained a UFC belt after such a lengthy gap, and we have already seen Mir fall to two of the men who stand in his way. But that doesn't matter. Frank Mir is a man determined to achieve his goal, and he will continue moving towards that goal with everything his has until it's his. I eagerly await the next step.