Frank Mir outclassed by Josh Barnett

MILWAUKEE -- The timing couldn’t have been worse for former two-time UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir. He lost to fellow former heavyweight titleholder Josh Barnett in the co-main event Saturday night at UFC 164.

It’s not just that Mir was the victim of a first-round TKO -- the stoppage was a bit premature. It’s that Mir has now lost three in a row, and wasn’t competitive in any of those fights.

Making matters more unfortunate for Mir is that the loss comes against a fighter who hadn’t competed inside the Octagon since 2002. Barnett is still a good fighter, but other than Daniel Cormier, he hadn’t faced top-level opposition of late.

This was the type of fight Mir was supposed to win, or at least be competitive in -- he did neither. Barnett punched him, kneed him and pushed him around. At no time in this brief encounter, which came to an end at the 1:56 mark, did Mir pose the slightest threat to Barnett.

Mir was simply outclassed in his third straight fight. And at 34, and showing little sign of improving, his future as a heavyweight to be taken seriously appears to have run its course.

Never in his professional mixed martial arts career had Mir dropped three fights in a row. If ever there was a worse time to experience such a drought, this was it. And at 34 years old, the odds of Mir rebounding from this hole to get back in title contention are slim.

What Mir has to fight for now isn’t a title shot; that option isn’t reasonable. His goal today is finishing his career on a positive note. It’s about getting wins, even if they must come against second-tier fighters.

He may no longer be title-worthy, but Mir has achieved enough inside UFC to retain his spot on the promotion’s roster. No one should, for one second, think Mir will be released by UFC. It won’t happen and it shouldn’t.

But his name should not even be considered for another co-main event as participants are being bantered about by matchmaker Joe Silva. This isn’t a knock on Mir, especially when he is down -- it’s just facing reality.

Mir looks slow in the cage these days, even with the improved physical conditioning he’s been receiving under the guidance of Greg Jackson in Albuquerque, N.M. And Mir deserves credit for taking the extra step to train in Albuqurque, spending weeks away from his family in Las Vegas.

The determination to succeed remains. It’s just that Mir is struggling to find a way to do so in today’s UFC.

Barnett, on the other hand, shouldn’t be pumping his chest too hard. He had the good fortune to catch Mir on the down side of his career. Regardless, competing and winning in the Octagon for the first time in years had Barnett in a jovial mood.

“It felt great to get this win here in the UFC,” Barnett said. “It’s been a long time coming.”

The best time to gauge where Barnett truly stands at this point in his MMA career will be in his next fight. Hopefully, it will be against a fighter on the upswing.

Travis Browne comes to mind. Byt hat might be stretching it a bit. How about Ben Rothwell, who showed tremendous resolve in his come-from-behind, third-round TKO of Brandon Vera in an earlier main-card bout.