After two straight first-round knockouts, Frank Mir will be rising up the UFC's heavyweight rankings. His head coach has a couple of ideas for whom he should fight next.
Ricky Lundell told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour that he'd like to see either Ben Rothwell or Mark Hunt as Mir's next opponent.
"I think Ben Rothwell would be a phenomenal fight," Lundell said. "He's inside the top 10 right now. He's looking for a higher ranked opponent or not higher ranked, but high profile. He wants to his face out there and wants to get his name on the map. He's got a lot of hype behind him right now. I don't know if that's because of his fight or because of his WWE pop out at the end. I love him either way. But I think he'd be a great fight for Frank."
Mir finished Todd Duffee by one-punch knockout last week at UFC Fight Night 70 in San Diego. Before that, he did just about the same to Antonio Silva in February. The former UFC heavyweight champion has certainly evolved since taking a year off following a loss to Alistair Overeem in February 2014.
Mir, 36, did briefly consider retirement, but Lundell said what he needed most was to heal his injuries.
"A lot of it comes down to rehabilitation," the coach said. "A lot of these fighters out there, they're not rehabbing their bodies correctly and they just keep doing a breakdown phase all the time. They keep going in, they break down their body, they break down their body, they break down their body. And eventually what happens is they run into injury after injury and then we see them fighting when really they shouldn't be fighting and people end up getting hurt. This is across the whole board of MMA."
Once Mir was back healthy, he really took to boxing, working with coach Angelo Reyes in Las Vegas. Already one of the most feared heavyweight submission artists ever, his hands have improved immensely, as showcased by his knockout wins over Silva and Duffee. Mir now spars with the likes of heavyweight boxing champion Bermane Stiverne.
Lundell said it was also a matter of Mir looking inward to improve himself, rather than focusing on preparing for an individual opponent. There was also a process of restoring confidence.
"'Man, what is it about me that's not winning?'" Lundell said Mir had to ask himself. "'Why am I not getting it done the way I should be?' I think we've answered those questions."
Rather emphatically. Just one year ago, people were calling for Mir's retirement. After four straight losses and a 13-year MMA career, it was hard to blame them. But Mir has pushed all the right buttons now with people like Lundell and Reyes around him. His next fight is going to be one with a fellow top-10 contender -- and that's incredible to imagine after that losing skid.
Lundell also tossed out Hunt's name when asked about a potential next opponent. Rothwell is ranked No. 7 and Hunt is No. 8. Mir was No. 10 before the Duffee knockout.
"Something that the fans would love to see," Lundell said regarding a Hunt bout. "He's a warrior, true and true. For Frank to be inside there with somebody like a Mark Hunt or a Ben Rothwell right now, man I think those would be some great fights."
Most people would agree now, even if they probably would not this time last year.