Josh Barnett came out with guns blazing in his UFC 164 victory over Frank Mir, which was just how “The Warmaster” drew it up.
“My strategy was just to bring it from start to finish -- be aggressive, put the pressure on him and take the fight where it ends,” Barnett said at the post-fight press conference. “If I’m the one who’s dictating, no matter where the position is, I feel it’s going to be in my favor.”
Barnett immediately pressed the action in the evening’s co-main event at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, clinching Mir and winging uppercuts at his fellow former heavyweight champion. Though some felt the fight would play out on the mat due to the heavyweights’ mutual grappling skill, the majority of the bout was instead fought from close quarters on the feet.
“The submission grappling aspects always existed, but wherever the fight went, I adjusted and kept going,” said Barnett. “When we created separation, I came after him with big punches looking for a [knockout]. When we clinched up again, it was Greco-Roman upper body stuff, with knees and elbows.
“You just have to be a well-rounded fighter, and you have to be prepared to use everything. Frank is also a well-rounded fighter. It’s easy to say one of our strongest aspects is our grappling and submission game, but if you look at it on the whole, it’s not surprising where the fight ended up.”
While Mir managed to connect with several clean blows over the top, Barnett soon took control of the situation, grinding Mir up against the cage and punishing him with a continual stream of short shots. From the same clinch position, Barnett expertly held Mir’s head in place as he lifted a sharp knee into the Nevada native’s temple, dropping him face first on the mat. Barnett pounced with punches, and referee Rob Hinds quickly waved off the contest.
Mir immediately protested the stoppage, springing back to his feet. While Barnett empathizes with his fellow fighter, he does not believe Mir would have been able to change the outcome had the bout been allowed to continue.
“The potential was there for [the stoppage] to be early. I understand the ref saw him drop, and so he thought [Mir] was out, but I come from the old school,” said Barnett. “Every time the ref comes back and gives me these little instructions, I always go, “Don’t stop it. I don’t care. Let me die.’ So I understand Frank’s frustration, but I feel like there was no getting out of that. I felt like it was the beginning of the end, but that’s what I’m supposed to feel.”