(This is the first of four blogs from former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir, who takes on current champ Junior dos Santos for the title at UFC 146.)
"JDS and Cain are same species" - Mir
A few weeks ago I was preparing to fight Cain Velasquez for perhaps the right to one day compete again for the UFC heavyweight title. Now, in little over a week, I will get that shot, earlier than expected, against current champion Junior dos Santos. A crazy turn of events has landed a UFC title shot on my doorstep and, on May 26 in Las Vegas, and I will take this opportunity with both hands.
Although you'd assume it's been tough switching from one opponent to another, that really hasn't been the case. And, if anything, it was good to start camp preparing for Cain Velasquez because it meant the emphasis was strong on cardio and fitness from the get-go. Cain is a great endurance athlete, so I had to be ready for that, even over three rounds. Therefore, when it came time to jump into the main event and prepare for a five-rounder, the hard part was already done.
Remember, despite the switch, I'm still fighting the same species. Both Cain and Junior are human beings with two arms and two legs. Everybody keeps saying they're completely different fighters, but they can both move, punch and do damage. There are subtle differences, sure, but not enough for me to panic and completely overhaul my training camp and change my mindset. We're all similar beings in this sport and we're all training the same way in 2012, albeit with slight nuances here and there. Of course, if Dos Santos was to come out left-handed and fight southpaw, that may throw me a little. But we're not expecting that to happen.
Funnily enough, there was a two-week crossover period when it felt like I was training for both Cain and Junior. Nothing had been confirmed yet, but the talk was that I was going to be stepping in for Alistair Overeem in the main event. I couldn't take anything for granted, though, and until it was confirmed I had to continue preparing for Cain, to ensure I wasn't caught with my pants down. It was a strange two weeks...
Also, a few people were making a lot of noise about Mark Hunt getting the title shot, but I never really took that seriously. After seeing Dos Santos' fight with Overeem fall apart, these fans obviously wanted to see Junior in there with another pure striker and Hunt is the go-to guy if that's what you're looking for. I don't think there was much chance of Hunt beating dos Santos, though, whereas at least with me I have options in the fight and can take dos Santos out of his comfort zone. Hunt's a popular guy and a fun fighter to watch, but if he couldn't knock Junior out, there's not a lot else he could offer in that match-up.
Ultimately, even though dos Santos will likely avoid the ground more than Cain would have, I still believe this fight is better suited to me than the original. Cain is very well-school on the ground. He may not submit many people, but he's always looking for dominant positions and spends a lot of time in side control and on top of opponents. It's very hard to submit somebody who likes to exert their dominance like that and has a good wrestling base to help them out. Dos Santos won't want to be going to the ground with me, I can assure you that. He won't feel comfortable down there and certainly won't feel dominant.
Dos Santos has said publicly (to the USA Today) that I struggle to come back from adversity and tough it out, but I feel as though I proved that in my last fight – a first-round win over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. In order to get the win, I had to ride out a few rough spots, gather my senses and then submit him. It wasn't plain sailing for me at all, and I had to rebound strongly to eventually get him out of there. I was hurt in that fight, and I was on the verge of losing, yet I still rallied back to submit one of the best jiu-jitsu fighters of all-time. How's that for bouncing back from adversity?
Junior is clearly looking at the old me and not looking at the drastic improvements I've made in recent years. Yes, in the past, when things weren't going too well, I had a hard time mentally getting through those rough patches. There is evidence of that throughout some of my early fights, and I'll be the first to admit it. The thing is, I've tried very hard to improve this aspect of my game and felt I showed this against Nogueira, a fight I'm sure Dos Santos will have watched many times.
In fact, I'm sure Junior was deeply hurt by seeing his friend and mentor defeated like that. It's a natural reaction. He's probably tried erasing the memory – just as I would if I'd seen one of my training partners beaten – and maybe that's why he can't recall me overcoming adversity …
Follow @thefrankmir on Twitter for all the latest news ahead of his bout against heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos at UFC 146.
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