Fight for the Aging: Mir to Return in Style vs. Emelianenko

Andreas Hale

Wednesday, April 25, 2018 1:24 PM UTC

Wednesday, Apr. 25, 2018 1:24 PM UTC

Frank Mir is 38 and hasn't been in the cage in two years. Fedor Emelianenko is 41 and hardly the force he used to be. Saturday's MMA matchup is truly a long time in the making.

MMA: Bellator 198Free MMA Picks: Mir & 'Over' 1.5 RoundsBest Lines Offered: Pinnacle & 5Dimes (-139 & +125)

You would think that Frank Mir and Fedor Emelianenko would have fought some time in the 2000s rather than having their first encounter when both are well past their primes in 2018. But, alas, here we are. Emelianenko, 41, who is no longer the dominant force he once was, will face Mir, 38, in the opening round of the 2018 Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix. Both are coming off of knockout losses but Mir hasn’t competed since March 2016.

The two will tussle at Bellator 198 on Saturday night in Rosemont, Illinois. How should you bet on a pair of aging veterans?

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Considering that this fight is happening much later than anyone could have anticipated, there are many things up in the air when it comes to trying to pick a winner. Do you value the level of competition Mir has faced recently or the fact Emelianenko has remained active? There’s no doubt that Mir should experience some sort of cage rust with the 25-month absence in his late 30s. But Emelianenko just hasn’t looked like the man many considered to be the best MMA fighter of all time.

The line is a close one with Mir favored as a -145 favorite, while Fedor is a slight underdog at +125 on the odds board. But, frankly, the line shouldn’t even be this close.

Yes, Mir’s time away from the cage is cause for concern, but if you have watched Emelianenko over the past seven years, you see a man who is truly a shell of his former self. After suffering three consecutive stoppage losses -- to Fabricio Werdum, Antonio Silva and Dan Henderson -- Emelianenko mounted a five-fight winning streak before being stopped in les than 90 seconds against Matt Mitrione. And that five-fight winning streak looks very suspect when you put it under a microscope. One of the fights, against Fabio Maldonado was an absolute gift as Emelianenko faded down the stretch and was on the verge of being knocked out. The other four wins were against over-the-hill competition.

For his part, Mir has remained facing stiff competition. Even though he has gone 2-6 in his last eight fights, he has squared off against the likes of Mark Hunt, Alistair Overeen, Josh Barnett, Daniel Cormier and Junior dos Santos. The time off could actually be a good thing for Mir to clear his head and reset.

Emelianenko is done. He’s no longer the elite force that he once was and just hasn’t looked anything close to what he was more than a decade ago. Mir appears to have more in the gas tank, so taking him at -145 with your MMA picks is pretty easy.

It also might be worth your time to bet on the fight going "over" 1.5 rounds at +125. Although Emelianenko was finished quickly by Mitrione and three of his last four victories ended in less than a round, Mir is a different opponent. Obviously, the same can be said for Mir as three of his last five fights ended in the first round. Here’s the key: Emelianenko doesn’t punch as hard as Hunt, and Mir isn’t a devastating striker. With the stakes being high on a grand stage, chances are that these two will be tentative to start. It’ll be interesting to see if Mir decides to drag the fight to the canvas or if Fedor will do everything in his power to avoid Mir’s vaunted ground game. Not to say that it won’t end in a flash, but 7.5 minutes with two aging fighters sounds like something that can last until the third round.

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