Greatest comebacks in MMA history
3. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
"Big Nog" is no stranger to resiliency, so don't count him out in the wake of his slaughter at the hands of Frank Mir.
This guy makes the jump to No. 3 on the list because he's made a career out of coming back from disappointment and tough losses. Shoot, Nogueira's made a life for himself based the concept.
This is one tough guy -- he got run over by a truck at age 11 in Brazil and then survived a four-day coma. In South America. In 1987. Usually, such a combination of misfortune can only be found in an obituary.
So it makes sense that, even a lot of his victories include an early visit to the brink of defeat.
Like when he fought Bob Sapp -- while surrendering 150 pounds -- got drubbed for a spell under the behemoth, only to survive the 10-minute opening stanza and submit the big fella via armbar.
That win was one of 13 straight victories for Big Nog heading into his first match with Fedor Emelianenko. Nogueira entered with the Pride FC heavyweight belt and left a battered, broken warrior.
No surprise, "Minotauro" would return.
He'd reclaim the interim belt in customary fashion, getting shellacked for the first round against Cro Cop, enduring, and then turning the tide into an armbar for another second round win. Then came two more brutal contests with the Last Emperor (a no contest and second unanimous decision loss for Minotauro).
Yep, the man has entered the ring with Fedor Emelianenko three times and lived to tell about it. Even managed to come all the way back from such punishment to capture the UFC Heavyweight Championship in a fight where (shockingly) Big Nog got sent to the canvas early on by Tim Sylvia.
And ultimately won via submission: a guillotine choke this time.
After Mir demolished him, even I'm in the camp saying Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is done. Which makes Minotauro pretty dangerous if history is any judge.
2. Randy Couture
Even casual fans of MMA probably know this story and were expecting to find Captain America perched atop the list. Well, he's close.
At the seasoned age of 43 (months shy of his 44th birthday), Randy Couture stepped out of retirement and into the arena for another shot at immortality in the Octagon. Actually, the UFC Hall-of-Famer was already immortal in his chosen sport before taking on Tim Sylvia at UFC 68 for the Heavyweight Championship.
Couture burst onto the scene by defeating a white-hot Vitor Belfort, then won his first heavyweight title from Maurice Smith in 1997. He'd win another such title from Kevin Randlemen in 2000.
His next title came in his first fight at a new weight. He took on Chuck Liddell for the interim light heavyweight championship and stopped the Iceman in the third round for the belt. Couture would later unify the championship by taking a unanimous decision from Tito Ortiz.
After losing the belt to Liddell and then failing in his bid to regain it, Randy Couture retired from MMA and entered the UFC Hall of Fame.
A year and a month later, Couture would be back in gloves and staring into the face of a 6-foot-10 giant, who was also the defending heavyweight champ. Randy would dominate Tim Sylvia for the win (even flooring the champ in the opening minutes) and, in the process, become a five-time champion. In addition, the win made Randy the oldest title holder in the sport's history.
Just another day for Captain America.
But it was the second greatest career comeback in the land of mere mortals.
1. Frank Mir
As wonderful as Couture's resurrection is, Frank Mir's effort gets the nod because of the beasts he's had to tackle in his return.
Those of us familiar with Mir know him to be a ... confident gentleman. We also know his reputation as one of the greatest ground fighters the heavyweight division has ever seen. But, when you check his career resume, you don't see a whole lotta support for these tidbits.
Mir's got 12 wins with seven submissions, two technical knockouts, two decisions, and one win by disqualification. His most impressive victories would be the two most recent stoppages: one of Minotauro and the other of Brock Lesnar (and possibly the submission of a previously unsubmitted Pete Williams by a shoulder lock subsequently named after Mir).
He's also got three rather questionable defeats: a technical knockout by Brandon Vera, a TKO by Marcio Cruz and a third TKO, courtesy of Ian Freeman. All came in the first round.
Doesn't seem like the stuff of legends. Particularly one who's already 30.
Look closer, though, and you'll see a period of dormancy lasting 20 months (from June 2004 until February 2006) in an otherwise busy fighting schedule. A period directly following his first heavyweight title, which he secured by breaking Tim Sylvia's arm.
Odd. At least on the surface.
The rest was necessary, you see, because a car smashed into Frank Mir while he was riding his motorcycle in September of '04. The violent collision snapped Mir's femur (that's the big one) in two places, essentially tore his knee apart, and required major surgery. While recovering, Mir's title was understandably stripped.
There were whispers Mir's career had a fork in it, even if he were physically able to fight again, he'd be a shadow of his former radiant self.
The whispers got louder after the TKO's to Cruz and then to Vera in two of his first three bouts upon returning to the Octagon.
Nobody's whispering anymore. Nobody's even thinking about Mir's demise. Not after an easy submission of Antoni Hardonk, a much harder submission of Lesnar, and his utter domination of Nogueira to regain a piece of the heavyweight belt.
Frank had to come back from devastating injury, debilitating psychological defeats, and he had to do it against some of the best heavyweights MMA currently has to offer.
Mir's already got one hand on the heavyweight championship.
That's one heck of a comeback, the best in MMA history.
And Frank Mir's not done.
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