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The Biggest Star to Emerge out of UFC 92? Try Frank Mir’s Striking Coach

Frank Mir's striking coach, Ken Hahn

As one of the many pundits who not only picked Frank Mir to lose to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira during their UFC 92 interim heavyweight title fight but to lose in dominating fashion, I cannot continue to write this article without acknowledging how wrong I was.

But I am still left wondering just exactly who we saw become the first fighter to ever finish the only man to hold heavyweight titles in PRIDE and in the UFC? I mean, was that really Frank Mir that we watched last night put down Nogueira last night?

Anyone who has been following the sport of MMA for more than a few months is well aware of Mir’s world class submission abilities. When it comes to jiu-jitsu for MMA, there are few heavyweights that can be ranked ahead of Mir.

However, the missing element in Mir’s seven-year career has always been his striking. Has it improved over the years? Sure. But for a guy that has been in the game as long as Mir, you would have expected that his standup game would have evolved much more than it had in recent years.

Yet following last night’s impressive showing on his feet, the persistent questions about Mir’s standup have likely evaporated.

Sure, the outcome of last night’s heavyweight tilt was surprising, but I watched the entire Mir vs. Nogueira fight with my jaw wide open as I was in disbelief at just how comfortable the jiu-jitsu black belt looked on his feet. What we saw last night wasn’t just improved striking from Mir — it was a complete and total transformation.

The striking display we saw from Mir won’t be confused with a premium-level K-1 striker, but it was a 180 degree change from his past efforts on his feet. And I am still trying to figure out what was the bigger surprise: Mir’s victory or the manner in which he earned the interim UFC heavyweight title.

All throughout the month of November I received calls from sources in Vegas complaining about Mir’s lack of work ethic during his training camp. They said Mir was taking weeks off at a time and was suffering from a back injury. They also added that when Mir did show up to train, he was often uninspired and lacked the “eye of the tiger.”

Was it all a ruse? Was the Mir camp leaking information out to the public in an attempt of giving Nogueira a false sense of confidence? I trust my sources and I don’t suspect subterfuge. After all, Mir didn’t exactly look shredded in the cage last night and this wasn’t the first fight in which questions about his work ethic have been raised.

We’ll apparently never know the answer to the question posed in the above paragraph because Mir didn’t win the fight based on stamina; he won it purely on skill. The fight never reached the championship rounds and by ending early, Mir’s cardio was never put to the test. However, Mir gave credence after the fight to those who doubted him by revealing that he had even doubted himself.

Mir has always been a naturally gifted athlete and those gifts allowed him during the pre-TUF era to become the clear cut number one heavyweight in the UFC. Natural talent made up for a lack of training in most of Mir’s early UFC fights but after being involved in a severe motorcycle accident that nearly cost him his leg, Mir was no longer able to get by on his natural ability upon his return.

In losses to Marcio “Pe de Pano” Cruz at UFC 57 and Brandon Vera at UFC 65, Mir looked like a fighter not long for the UFC. In hindsight, those losses appear even worse now than they did then. After upsetting Mir, Cruz lost his next two fights in the UFC and was cut. Meanwhile, Vera failed to deliver on his potential while in the heavyweight division and now resides in the promotion’s 205 pound division.

Now those losses appear to be nothing more than a distant memory following wins over Lesnar and Nogueira but it might not be entirely accurate to say that the old Mir is back. That’s because the Mir we saw last night is a much more dangerous fighter than we saw during his first UFC heavyweight title run. If UFC 92 is not an aberration and Mir’s striking has truly become that good, he has now finally managed to become a well-rounded martial artist after seven years in the game.

And while Mir’s stock is soaring coming out of UFC 92, the man whose stock might be rising even more is his striking coach, Ken Hahn.

Hahn, who owns the fight gym Striking Unlimited in Las Vegas, had been relatively anonymous to the mainstream prior to seeing his profile increase while serving as Mir’s assistant coach during the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter.

Mir had talked up Hahn’s influence in interviews that led up to TUF 8 but his endorsements did not begin to resonate until Hahn began to receive some camera time coupled with a regular blog on the popular mixed martial arts website MMAjunkie.com.

Hahn was once again visible in the corner of Mir at UFC 92 and following Mir’s impressive striking display, his already successful fight gym stands to gain an acute increase in business. There are only so many fighters that can go to renowned MMA striking coaches such as Shawn Tompkins and Mark Della Grotte for help and fighters are constantly in search of the latest trend that can provide them a competitive edge.

A quick look at the website for Striking Unlimited reveals some impressive credentials for Hahn. In addition to holding second degree black belts in both Enshin Karate and Tae Kwon Do, he is also a certified Fairtex instructor in Muay Thai and an official trainer for K-1’s various brands. As a competitor, he was the 2000 Sabaki Challenge Open Weight South American Champion and the 2001 Sabaki Challenge Middlweight World Champion.

While verbal endorsements from Mir and world class credentials are nice, there was no better advertisement for the expertise that Hahn can offer a fighter than the performance turned in by Mir at UFC 92. As such, don’t be surprised to see an influx of fighters show up on Hahn’s doorsteps in a quest to take their striking to the next level.

In gaining a share of the UFC’s divided heavyweight title, Mir also earned a rematch against current UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar. When Mir defeated Lesnar last February, it was via submission. However, thanks to Hahn’s influence, we could easily see Mir defeating Lesnar by way of knockout the second time around.

17 COMMENTS
  • jj says:

    Not to take anything away from Mir, but Nogueira didn’t seem himself last night.

    Did anyone notice Nog was sluggish? Nog is usually a great boxer, but didn’t have anything to offer standing up last night.

    I think it’s funny that Mir was just as surprised that he won as everyone else. I had my doubts that Mir was ever going to rise to the levels he had attained before his accident. My hats off to him though, he could have taken an easy way back but took difficult fights that had me questioning whether he would make it or not.

    Now the UFC really needs to get this interim belt crap cleaned up and give us one true champion.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  • darkmetal says:

    jj beat me to the punch. Mir looked improved in striking, it’s true, but Nogiera looked like he had just awakened from a 10 hr nap after a giant meal of Yankee potroast chased with about a gallon of egg nog.

    I will give Mir credit for coming to fight, which it seems Nogiera didn’t. I just think Nogiera (a guy who I actually like better than Mir) might have taken Mir too lightly in this fight, and he paid for it.

    Does anyone think that Brock Lesnar will slowly lumber around taking shots from Mir in their upcoming fight? Seriously. Mir got lucky last time they met, and he should not get too cocky like he did after beating Nog and stating “You have MY belt” to Lesnar.

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  • joykiller says:

    Dude, I am a little surprised. I was hoping that minotauro would win.

    But anyways, Mir did a great job and his striking was really impressive. There’s no doubt that Lesnar is in real troubles now.

    I do hope that Mir can beat Lesnar, and become a true MMA Champion. He is no longer the one-dimensional figther that he was.

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  • Cathedron says:

    It looked to me that Nog might have been rocked early on in that fight. Mir was just so dominant in the striking. Every exchange seemed to edge Nog out and do a little more damage. I guess that’s to be expected. Mir’s a big guy. His punches have to hurt (now that he knows how to throw them).

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  • CubanLinx says:

    its so funny reading all of these comments by the people thinking Nog would easily win, now they’re making exscuses for him. c’mon guys, gimme a break.

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  • Tom Hodgson says:

    Right there with you Cuban. Give the man a fucking break. He came back from being told he would never fight again to finish a man who even Fedor couldn’t finish. That’s like being told you have cancer, three months to live, then beat it and climb Mount Everest. Mir has been my favorite heavyweight throughout his career and watching him put Nog to the canvas 3 times last night made every single cent of that $45 worth its weight in gold. Thank you Mir, thank you.

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  • Rich S. says:

    Mir is one of my favorite fighters.. has been since the first time i saw him fight.. but i’ll be the first to say that his striking as always been.. slow [especially after the accident of course]

    the dude throws very slow, very choppy leg kicks, that not only don’t do damage, but normally get him taken down [maybe that’s his plan]

    same for his body kicks..

    and when you actually see the punches, they miss..

    But, last night he showed VAST improvement in the standup.. now, i don’t think he could’ve really been threatened by Nog, but i didn’t think he’d do that..

    very glad to see this improvement, i hope it only gets better..

    He truly has been reborn.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • chris says:

    mir looked awesome i couldn’t believe my eyes i was hoping he’d win but i never expected that. for all of you making excuses shame on you. never underestimate people you would think people would realise that with all the upsets in the part two yrs.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • Jay K. says:

    It blew my mind like everyone else’s that Mir had won! I truly thought he was going to gas when he was jogging around the Octagon prior to the fight. I was shouting “No, no, NO! Mir, slooow down, the fights about to both begin and be over for you!

    TRUE DAT!!

    Boy was I wrong!

    :D

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • Wayne says:

    My regret with the Mir fight is not putting some money down on him. However, I don’t want entertainment to turn into a financial dealing, so I am not too upset about it.

    All of you haters need to stop making excuses. I too thought Nog looked a little soft, but that doesn’t take away Mir’s victory. Nog was the one who showed up to the fight, and it was Nog who trained for it. Anything that wasn’t 100% for him was his own fault.

    In addition to his striking, he showed a lot of calm & maturity by not following Nog to the ground. I had at first thought it was a devious plan by Nog to get Mir in his guard by falling easily, but as we saw, if it was his plan it did not work out well for him.

    Mir surprised everyone, even his fans. My call for his win was not a TKO, for sure.

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  • Austin says:

    OR we could see mir fall like a sack of bricks a la randy couture

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  • john_gee says:

    I HAD A BET WITH MY FRIEND FOR THIS FIGHT. I THOUGHT MURR HAD NO CHANCE IN HELL OF WINNING. SO NATURALLY I BET ON A-NOG. I’M NEVER COUNTING OUT MURR AGAIN. THE BET WAS I WOULD LET MY FRIEND CUT MY HAIR ANY WAY HE WANTED. CHECK OUT THE PICS ON MYSPACE.COM/ALBA69

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • mike wolfe says:

    Mir’s stand up was astonishing, especially in contrast to his past fights. But he impressed me even more with his intelligence. He knocked ‘Nog down twice, and resisted the urge to stay on the ground with him. Making ‘Nog get up and fight was exactly the right strategy, and it’s exactly what Mir has said repeatedly when calling WEC fights. He’s always been analytical, and maybe watching all those fights helped him put together the right game plan for ‘Nog. Now let’s see how he deals with Lesnar, who is much quicker and wants to be on the ground.

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  • john says:

    NOG didnt look slugginsh he was slightly rocked at the beginning of the 1st round, which probably took a toll on him and MIR just never stopped, as for some of you saying it looked like Nog wasnt on his “A” game i say bull $hit, when has Nog never been on his “A” game Mir came to fight and he was the better fighter. give Frank his credit he put a beating on a Legend who deserves all the respect in the world,give credit to Mir………..BTW i still hate Rashad “the showboat” Evans

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  • mmastation says:

    I couldnt believe that fight. I gave Mir absolutely 0 chance of winning, let alone finishing this fight and I think I finally picked my jaw up off the ground when the main event started.

    Mir showed an amazing improvement in his standup and my hats off to him, he proved all of us haters wrong.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • neijia says:

    Nog looked like he looked against Fedor. His striking has never seemed impressive. He relies to much on the bjj rope-a-dope later rounds strategy.

    I thought Mir looked *better* than premium K-1 strikers. The gap between his hi/lo and lo/hi combos was maybe .2 seconds. Once a low kick landed, a left overhand would land and vice versa. Also, he would lead with a long, drilling, uppercut that seemed to land at will. I think Mir went back to his karate toolbox.

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  • darkmetal says:

    C’mon guys, ARN looked pretty soft coming into the fight, you must agree. This against a guy who is usually criticized for his own flabbiness. If you come to a fight looking like Jack Black ala “Nacho Libre”, it is “nacho” going to be your night.

    I firmly believe that this will be a wakeup call to Big Nog, and expect him to come in to battle next time.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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