Only one person can say they fought the biggest heavyweight attraction of all time and the best heavyweight to ever compete. That person is Frank Mir.
Mir made Brock Lesnar submit at UFC 81 in February 2008, in what was Lesnar’s second MMA bout. They met again at UFC 100 in July 2009 with Lesnar winning by second-round TKO. Mir then took on Emelianenko at Bellator 198 in the first round of the heavyweight grand prix this past April and lost in 48 seconds.
Lesnar and Emelianenko are two completely different animals when it comes to fighting styles. Lesnar used his wrestling background and brute strength to become the UFC heavyweight champion, while Emelianenko relied on his power and Sambo background to not only win the PRIDE heavyweight title, but defeat some of the greatest heavyweights the sport has ever seen. Many in MMA circles would say Emelianenko would be the tougher matchup due to him being the more well-rounded fighter. But Mir, the former two-time UFC heavyweight champ, doesn’t see it that way at all.
“Oh Brock, no doubt about it [is the tougher fighter],” Mir, who faces Javy Ayala in the co-main event of Friday’s Bellator 212, admitted to Sporting News. “[Lesnar’s] physical speed and the wrestling in just being able to control position. Fedor’s wrestling isn’t very good. At his age, he’s become just a pure striker. We saw that he had no submission ability and his grappling looked pathetic against Chael. His hands were fast as s— and were explosive and clean. But he’s a one-trick pony. With Brock being such a good wrestler and being really honest, with a cage, it is a tough style to go against. If you look at it, it’s much more consistent of the guys in MMA that are good wrestlers.”
Normally, it’s hard to draw any positives from losing a fight so quickly, as Mir did to Emelianenko. However, after reviewing the footage, Mir realized a startling thing about the hard-hitting Russian and knows what he would do differently if they ever meet again.
“It was the first fight after a two-year layoff, so it was a big jump going in there the first time back out,” Mir said. “It got me back training and motivated. Any time after a loss, especially against someone as world- renowned as Fedor, it is not as hard of a pill to swallow. Fedor is a great fighter. He caught me though.”
Mir added: “I have hit a lot of guys in my career and said, ‘Oh, that is a great shot.’ When I hit Fedor and he fell down, I was surprised because it wasn’t even a hard punch. I know what it feels like when I connect. You could feel the impact. When he fell down, I was like, ‘Whoa, he doesn’t have a chin for s—.’ That was bad. It made me a little too overconfident and that’s why I think I rushed in. I thought if I touched him again, he would fall down. I forgot that he’s still extremely quick and powerful and still very ferocious. But he doesn’t have a chin and if you clip him, he goes to sleep. If I get a rematch, which I would like in the future, I would do things a lot differently. It’s an extremely winnable fight. Hopefully, I can work that out.”
Before that, though, the growing sentiment heading into Bellator 212 is that Mir should dispose of Ayala in short order to move onto bigger things. But Mir isn’t overlooking Ayala at all. He feels Ayala brings a heavy punch inside the cage, but possesses a suspect ground attack. The 39-year-old does realize a win doesn’t do much for him, while a loss would be impactful enough for people to suggest that he hangs up his gloves.
“I take a loss and it’s extremely detrimental,” Mir said. “A win, though, means I’m treading water. Saturday morning, if I go out and smash Javy Ayala and choke him out in the first round, people will be like, ‘Well, it was Javy Ayala. His ground game isn’t that great and he doesn’t stop takedowns from other guys. Of course you smashed him.’ I don’t think I’ll get much credit for that. If I lose, all hell is going to break loose on Saturday. The talk will be when I’m retiring and why would I fight again.”
Friday’s fight marks the first time that Mir (18-11) will compete since his loss to Emelianenko.