Who Takes It? Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva vs. Frank Mir

This edition of “Who Takes It?” features a two-time former UFC champion taking on a former title challenger, in arguably the most glamorous of MMA divisions.

One stands tall (at 6’3″ and 257 lbs.) as arguably the most dynamic submission fighter in the division’s history, claiming victory over the likes of titlists Rodrigo Nogueira and Brock Lesnar. The other is a 6’4″, 264 lb. brutal knockout artist, whose victims include top-rated heavyweights like Alistair Overeem and Travis Browne.

It’s all going down this weekend, in front of what promises to be a raucous crowd, in the latter athlete’s home country of Brazil.

So why is no one talking about it?

Well, for starters: former titlist Frank Mir and title contender Antonio Silva, who will headline UFC Fight Night event in Porto Alegre, Brazil on Sunday, are also on losing streaks — of two and four bouts, respectively.

So unlike our last installment, which broke down the GLORY heavyweight title bout between Rico Verhoeven and Errol Zimmerman, there seems a little bit of a lack of luster to the affair.

But then, while the bout began about as predicted, with Verhoeven using his superior technical acumen to earn the first round, it would end in disappointment — as a Zimmerman injury cut the bout short. So, maybe this one will surprise.

The 35 year old Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva has earned a 18-6 record over a ten year MMA career, and he’s currently ranked #8 UFC heavyweights. The #13 ranked Frank Mir is also 35, and has earned a record of 16-9 since 2001.

Both have been to the top of the ladder, but both have also been the victim of some ugly beatings.

Silva got the world’s attention in 2011 with his TKO upset victory over the arguably greatest MMA heavyweight of all time, Fedor Emelianenko, where he pounded the legend out in a one-sided round two.

Then, he was the victim of a first round stoppage in his next two bouts.

A couple of big wins later – stoppages over Alistair Overeem and Travis Browne – and he was challenging for the UFC title.

He was again stopped in the first round by Cain Velasquez.

A slug-fest draw with Mark Hunt seemed to raise his stock – but then was turned to a no-contest when he tested positive for elevated testosterone levels.

In his last Octagon appearance, everything seemed in place for a comeback win against faded former champ Andrei Arlovski. But, a strangely tentative Silva was again starched in the first round.

Big ups, and big downs.

In contrast to Silva’s KO rep, Mir has the most submissions in UFC heavyweight history. His career includes a reign as heavyweight champion and another as interim champ.

Still, possibly his greatest achievement wasn’t for a title at all: his Kimura submission over Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 140. There, Mir scored a submission off of a deft reversal — after being nearly finished.

Unfortunately, that 2011 bout was his last victory — he’s been dominated in his last four bouts. He also took advantage of a size disparity there — which he won’t have against Silva.

Still, it’s safe to say Mir has the edge on the mat. But can he take it there? He’s only landed one takedown in the four fights since the Nogueira bout: a double leg against Overeem in the second round of their fight last year. (There the  Dutchman was taken down while he “fell asleep at the wheel” after a dominant first round. But he recovered quickly, escaped a Mir submission attempt, and regained control — eventually pounding out a decision win.)

Mir also has won a few knockout victories; surprising some striking-based opponents by finishing them with strikes of his own — particularly by lunging in with a strong overhand left. But it’s been a while since we’ve seen that, either; and he doesn’t show the kind of movement which seemed to confuse Silva in the Arlovski bout.

Another thing Silva and Mir have in common: they were both recipients of the now-banned testosterone replacement therapy, and it’s possible that has played into the downturns in their careers. Silva has a rare medical condition, acromegaly, which can effect testosterone production. Mir says he was putting a band aid on a larger problem with the controversial treatment – his lifestyle and training methods were wrong, and he’s corrected those issues. But we haven’t seen results yet.

Standing, it seems Silva has both the edge, and more importantly, the ability to take advantage of it.

Mir just hasn’t had much “pop” lately. Sure, observers will say that about Silva’s recent opponents like Arlovski – but while the “Pitbull” sulked around the cage a bit in recent appearances, he at least looked dangerous. Mir has often looked lost. Sure, that’s against some great fighters, while Silva is a very good fighter. But it’s telling.

The bottom line here is that Silva seems to have just a little more left – enough to take advantage of his size, bully Mir around a bit with punching combo’s, and snap out a few front kicks and leg kicks to keep him at bay. Look for the strikes to accumulate, and Silva to take a TKO win in the third stanza.

As always, enjoy the fights!