Post-Fight Thoughts: Fedor Emelianenko -vs- Frank Mir
Leading into Bellator 198, the promotion was in somewhat dire need of a 'big' show that delivered. Declining ratings across all of MMA have not spared Bellator, and even with the addition of prominent ex-UFC fighters to the roster; this show needed to deliver entertainment and ratings. For the most part, Bellator got what they were looking for: a solid main card filled with fun finishes, capped off with a quick, violent heavyweight fight between Fedor Emelianenko and Frank Mir — two legends of the sport. In a fight that lasted under 1 minute, both men took turns dropping each other with punches, before Fedor was able to earn the stoppage with his follow-up ground-and-pound on a dazed Mir.
There was not a whole lot to glean from the fight, given its brevity, but it went almost exactly as one would expect — maybe a little quicker. With both fighters in the twilight of their respective careers, their porous defences and diminshed damage thresholds meant that the winner would be whomever pulled the trigger first. Mir was able to put Fedor down, something that happens in almost every one of the Russian's fights, but had no follow-up. Fedor rocked Mir with an uppercut, followed him to the ground and landed a half-dozen undefended strikes. It wasn't a return to form for The Last Emperor, but a faint reminder of the dominant champion he used to be — just enough to stoke the memories of hardcore fans.
Personally, I thought Mir, for all the brutal stoppage losses on his record — and the 2-year forced hiatus resulting from a failed drug test on April 8th, 2016 — would still have enough left in the tank to dispatch Fedor. All of the concerns about Mir's viability in 2018 aside, Fedor has been a little more active but has looked more-and-more diminished in each fight, with his previous contest ending in a 1:15 KO loss at the hands of Matt Mitrione last June. I was wrong, but I think this fight was a classic heavyweight coin toss situation. The fight was mercifully short, packing as much drama and excitement into 48 seconds as possible. As part of the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix Tournament, this was also the first bout to deliver on the entertainment front, as Chael Sonnen and Matt Mitrione each notched fairly unremarkable decision victories in their respective quarter-final rounds.
By beating Frank Mir, Fedor now moves to the semi-final round where he will face Chael Sonnen. In past years, if you told me I was going to be writing a sentence like that, I would have pressumed you to be insane — and yet here we are. That fight should be a one-way traffic from Fedor; the Russian may be on the smaller side of heavyweight, he is still markedly bigger than Sonnen, who has fought the bulk of his career at middleweight. Fedor's submission grappling is more than sufficient to coax a tap from Sonnen, who has struggled against proficient grapplers throughout the entirety of his career — having lost 9 fights via submission. Still, it should be an amusing fight for as long as it lasts, and there's at least a chance that Chael makes the pre-fight build-up entertaining.
Lastly, the next move for Frank Mir is — or at least should be — some introspection on whether or not he wants to continue fighting. At 38 years old, Mir has been fighting professionally for 17 years and has endured 9 knockout losses. The sheer number of KOs is a cause for concern, but upon further inspection some of them — such as his losses to Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin — were extremely violent even by the standards of professional MMA. Mir has absorbed a lot of damage just in fights, without taking into consideration the accumulation of trauma from almost 2 decades of sparring sessions. It's not definitive that Frank Mir is completely shot as a fighter, but his most recent performances have indicated an ongoing state of decline.
I highly doubt Mir will call it quits after this loss; I would expect the financial incentive alone is enough to get Frank Mir back in the cage, for now. Still, I hope that he takes the time to consider what the next step in his life will be, his resumé is one of the best in the business already. Even Fedor, despite winning this fight, is showing his age and I expect any young, reasonably skilled heavyweights will be too much for him to handle but there is still some potential in other "legends" match-ups. I don't give Fedor good odds to win the tournament, as I think Ryan Bader is the safe bet, but it would make for an amazing story. Imagine both Fedor and Cro Cop still winning GPs in the tail end of the 2010s!
Published: April 29th, 2018.