Whenever he leaves the cage for the final time, Frank Mir will do so as one of the most successful heavyweights in Ultimate Fighting Championship history.
His journey has taken him to the highest highs and the lowest lows, as Mir fought for a piece of the heavyweight title on five different occasions and established himself as one of the most feared submission artists to ever compete in the division. The 36-year-old Las Vegas native has won more UFC fights (16), made more appearances (26) and delivered more finishes (13) than any other heavyweight to set foot inside the Octagon. His list of victims includes Roberto Traven, Pete Williams, David “Tank” Abbott, Cheick Kongo, Mirko Filipovic and Todd Duffee. Mir stacks up statistically, as well. According to FightMetric data, he ranks first on the all-time list among UFC heavyweights in submission attempts (21), second in submission average per 15 minutes (2.1), fifth in knockdowns (eight), fifth in takedowns (21), seventh in takedown accuracy (42.9 percent) and ninth in total strikes (591).
In a career with plenty of defining moments, here are five that stand out:
1. Snap, Crackle, Pop
Mir fought for the heavyweight crown for the first time at UFC 48 on June 19, 2004. Awaiting him at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas was the enormous 6-foot-8 Tim Sylvia. Mir needed less than a minute to claim the gold, as Sylvia wandered into his guard and became hopelessly entangled. Mir bit down on his exposed right arm and extended his hips with devastating consequences. Sylvia refused to tap, so fans initially booed the stoppage. Referee Herb Dean had seen something they had not. Replays showed Sylvia’s arm snap between the wrist and the forearm. “That’s what I felt,” Mir said. “Tim’s a tough mother [expletive]. He was ready to fight some more with a broken arm.” Though the stoppage was just, Mir did not like the dissatisfaction from those in attendance. “I want to give the crowd what they want to see,” he said. “If they want to see the guy get his arm ripped totally off, I’ll rip it off.”
2. A Career in Jeopardy
Less than two months after he submitted Sylvia to become the UFC’s undisputed heavyweight champion, Mir and his brother hit the Las Vegas streets on motorcycles. It was Sept. 17, 2004, a Friday, and Mir had no idea his career would soon be in jeopardy. Then 25, he was struck by a car and cartwheeled through the air, coming to rest some 90 feet from the point of impact. His femur was broken in two places, his knee shredded, one of his toes hanging by a thread. Mir underwent surgery to have a rod inserted into his mangled leg the next day. He was subsequently stripped of his title and did not compete again until 2006, when he returned to the Octagon opposite Marcio Cruz at UFC 57. He lost two of his first three fights in his comeback, leading some to wonder whether or not he would ever be the same. That he made it back at all was nothing short of miraculous. Brighter days lay ahead, his career far from over.
3. The Kneebar
Mir rebounded from technical knockout losses against Cruz and Brandon Vera to submit Antoni Hardonk with a first-round kimura at UFC 74 on Aug. 25, 2007. He felt like himself again, and it set the stage for one of the most significant victories of his career. The Ultimate Fighting Championship five months later booked him opposite Brock Lesnar at UFC 81, where he was tasked with welcoming the former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar to the Octagon. Lesnar was a monstrous human being and a former NCAA wrestling champion at the University of Minnesota. He had arrived on the MMA scene in June 2007, when he struck Olympic silver medalist Min Soo Kim into submission at a K-1 event in Los Angeles. Mir was not intimidated. He yielded an early takedown, weathered Lesnar’s considerable assaults from top position and exploited his inexperience. Mir caught a kneebar as the South Dakota native hovered over him and wrenched the leg for the tapout. “I had Brock Lesnar -- You see the beast over there? -- dropping elbows on my head, and I still pulled through and grabbed the submission.”
4. A One-Sided Rivalry
Not many fighters can say they have beaten an all-time great twice, much less finished him, but Mir got the best of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira on two different occasions. He first met “Minotauro” at UFC 92 on Dec. 27, 2008, as he stopped the notoriously durable Brazilian with two left hooks in the second round and captured the interim heavyweight championship in what was at the time a career-defining performance. Some three years later, they locked horns again at UFC 140, and the results were far more devastating for Nogueira. Mir became the first man to submit the former Pride Fighting Championships titleholder, as he put him away with a gruesome first-round kimura. The hold snapped the bone between Nogueira’s shoulder and elbow, eliciting an immediate tapout. Nogueira had Mir badly hurt before the stomach-churning submission. He landed a right hook, backed it up with a left and set Mir on wobbly legs. It then went to the ground, and Nogueira swarmed with punches, closing fast on the finish. Somehow, Mir survived. During a scramble that ensued, Mir caught the arm, locked up the kimura and wrenched. Nogueira tried to roll free, but Mir only cinched it deeper. Ultimately, the arm snapped and Nogueira tapped in visible pain. “Now I’m the first person to knock him out and the first person to submit him,” Mir said. “I kept flat, chest heavy and was able to break it. That’s what I trained for.”
5. Bashing Bigfoot
Mir arrived at his Feb. 22, 2015 matchup with former EliteXC champion Antonio Silva as something of an afterthought. He was on a four-fight losing streak and many believed he was on the way out. Instead, Mir breathed new life into his career and wiped out Silva with a sneaky left hook and follow-up punches and elbows in Porto Algre, Brazil. The end came 1:40 into round one. Silva offered nothing of significance during his brief time in the cage. Mir fought from the orthodox stance, snuck a left hook past the Brazilian’s defenses, planted it on his chin and trailed the fallen “Bigfoot” to the canvas. Once there, he unleashed a series of rights and lefts before mixing in three wicked elbows to the head, the second of which appeared to knock Silva unconscious. The performance quieted detractors and reminded the masses that Mir remained a credible threat in the heavyweight division.