What Happened to Frank Mir at UFC on Fox?

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Last night’s UFC on Fox event started out as one of the most exciting events of the year. Watching Matt Brown and Jordan Bien kick-off the main card in an all out war got the adrenaline pumping right away, and the follow-up match between Nate Diaz and Josh Thompson promised no less. Going into Cormier vs. Mir, I knew the momentum would keep going… sadly, I was wrong.

Frank Mir has been one of my favourite heavyweights to watch since his renaissance win against Brock Lesnar back in early-2008. He has always been exciting and dynamic, with one of the most well-rounded games in the heavyweight division. Since this “renaissance” for Mir, what has become most notable is the improvement in his game has been aggressiveness on the feet; it’s an aspect of Mir’s game that was lacking in the past and he clearly put some work into it. Watching him go into the ring and put down Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 92 was one of my most memorable fights to-date – mostly because it was the beginning of the end of Nogueira. Last night in San Jose, California marked the complete opposite of that dynamic exciting Frank Mir.

So, what the heck happened to Frank Mir at UFC on Fox against Daniel Cormier?!

I am not going to take anything away from Cormier, but Mir has not generally faired too well against high-level strikers historically. Look at his most recent losses: Cormier, Junior Dos Santos, Shane Carwin – these guys are premiere strikers.  They’re fighters who have a game rooted mainly in striking and know how to take it to someone on the feet. Mir’s wins against top-level strikers can be argued against as well; his win against Mirko Crocop was the time he had such an uninspiring effort, and while he beat Kongo decisively, I think Kongo’s head was out of the game in that one. So, Mir doesn’t usually fair too well against top-level strikers, which he did last night. So, is that the end of it? No chance.

I think the larger problem here is who Mir is training with ( re: Jackson’s MMA). I’m a fan of MANY of the fighters in the Jackson camp, but one thing you can’t deny is that Jackson has a way of sucking the excitement out of his fighters. This isn’t necessarily always a bad thing; Jackson likes his fighters to go into the cage with their heads and not their hearts – plan out your move, don’t function on instinct alone. While this make for a winning record, it rarely equates to fireworks. Watching Mir last night, he had all the earmarks of a Greg Jackson product. Slow, boring… thinking too much how to adjust his game plan to a sprier than expected Daniel Cormier, rather than just moving forward with his heart.

In 2012 approximately 52% of fights ended in a decision (21% by submission, 31% by TKO/KO), with 47% of fights by decision and 1% by no contest. Jackson’s MMA had the lowest finishing percentage of all teams in 2012 at 30%, well below the UFC average; incidentally, GSP’s Tristar gym (GSP being a Jackson’s MMA product) had the second lowest finishing percentage in 2012 at 35%. Just as a point of interest, Team Alpha Male had the highest team finishing percentage in 2012 at 67% (granted they have far fewer fighters in the UFC compared to some of the bigger camps), followed by ATT (56%) and Team Quest (56%). Now, that’s a lot of numbers to digest – but, I think the point is clear – Jackson’s MMA is about the game plan, not the finish. Game plans are good, but so is heart – it’s a fine balance between yin and yang. This isn’t a tirade against Jackson’s MMA, but I think the numbers speak for themselves.

You could tell by the way Mir was moving last night that he was trying to fight with a plan in mind; he didn’t have the killer instinct. The Frank Mir that I saw finishing off Big Nog’ and Cheick Kongo fought like a boxer going in for the championship of the world. Last night I saw a Frank Mir who was waiting for something, and TRYING to avoid being hit… he looked like a slow, old man.

Fortunately, the excitement picked back up on the card with Henderson vs. Melendez – but, there’s nothing worse than losing such great momentum in an MMA card. My hope is that Mir will re-watch this fight and then compare it back to some of his previous more decisive wins and re-adjust, because I think we all want the old Frank Mir back – the one who can win fights with fireworks and emotion.

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Photo Credit: photopin via THQInsider