COMMENTARY | At UFC 140 in December 2011, Frank Mir scored one of the most impressive submission wins in MMA history when he broke Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's arm with a kimura. Three weeks later at UFC 141, Alistair Overeem needed less than three minutes to stop former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar with a series of crushing strikes.
After these performances, there was no doubting either fighter's standing near the top of the UFC heavyweight division as the calendar turned to 2012. Both former heavyweight champions (Mir in the UFC and Overeem in Strikeforce), both fighters realistically entered that year with legitimate title aspirations.
Neither Mir nor Overeem has won since.
Mir has lost all three of his last fights, being stopped by Junior dos Santos in a title fight and Josh Barnett in less than two minutes, and losing to Daniel Cormier in a one-sided decision. Overeem has been knocked out in both of his most recent octagon appearances, losing come-from-behind fights against Antonio Silva and Travis Browne. To add insult to injury, he also was forced to sit out nine months after being suspended for an elevated testosterone level after a surprise drug test.
Now the two meet in a crucial heavyweight bout at this Saturday night's UFC 169 event. The fight is crucial not so much because of its immediate impact on the UFC title picture, as neither fighter finds himself in a position where he could realistically expect a sudden shot at the belt. Rather, the fight is important because the loser will be staring at the realistic possibility of being cut from the promotion after the bout. And, in either case, the release would be both a shocking conclusion to a fighter's UFC tenure, although it would be entirely justifiable.
Suspect chins have seemed to be the biggest issue for Mir and Overeem during their recent slides. Four of their combined five consecutive losses have come via stoppage due to strikes. In fact, both fighters have generally seemed uncomfortable whenever their opponents have put close pressure on them. This would seem to favor Overeem, who is a world-class kickboxer, but something similar could have been said before Overeem's fights against Silva and Browne, and in each Overeem ended up flat on his back. In reality, the fight will more likely favor whoever takes the more aggressive approach and lands leather on his opponent's chin first.
On the flip side, all is not lost for both fighters. While the loser will be facing the possibility of walking papers, the winner will still be in the thick of the heavyweight rankings. As reflected by the fact that both Mir and Overeem are still ranked in the top ten of the division despite their recent losing streaks, fighters in the historically shallow heavyweight division are always a couple of high profile wins away from title contention. Look no further than Silva, who parlayed wins over Overeem and Browne into a title shot despite starting that small streak coming off of two straight losses of his own. As a result of this lack of marketable depth, the winner will almost definitely be in line for a high profile bout in a climb back towards the top of the ladder.
All in all, the stakes will be high for Mir and Overeem this Saturday night. While both have been in title fights and against some of the greatest heavyweights in the world, at UFC 169 they will instead by facing the challenge of fighting with their jobs potentially on the line.
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Del Pearson is a big MMA fan who has been to many live UFC events. His all-time favorite fighter is Randy Couture. Follow Del on Twitter @DelPearson44.
- Mixed Martial Arts
- Martial Arts
- Alistair Overeem
- Frank Mir