Throughout the ages, it has always been the heavyweights with the most longevity in combat sports. With boxing in particular we see the heavier fighters hit their primes later and maintain their presence for a lot longer. When the game isn't as reliant on speed and movement, those split seconds of reflexes you lose as the body ages don't really matter. The "old man strength" can get you by, especially when your opponents will - as a general rule - not be known for lightning-fast hand speed.
This has carried over into mixed martial arts for many of the same reasons. Though getting slugged in the head by 250lb fighters doesn't lend itself that well to a long career, if you can avoid the masses of head trauma as much as possible then you can still compete as the body wears on by using different attributes. Randy Couture took the UFC heavyweight title when he had passed 40 and is the only man to do so in the promotion's history across any division.
We've some legends of the sport recently admit the toll it's taken, Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira for example who calls it a day at 39 and with sixteen years as a professional. Nogueira has had a punishing career at the highest level for over a decade and even he managed to touch the big 4-0. It's rare you see any lighter fighters make it that far without anywhere near as many miles on the clock.
This brings us to two heavyweight division stalwarts - two men who have been close to hanging up the gloves for good, but are now back in form and on the road to facing each other in a clash that could have some title implications with the right performance.
Frank Mir and Andrei Arlovski are both former UFC heavyweight champions. Arlovski had his title reign ten years ago now, and here he is with a five-fight win streak and a 3-0 slate since returning to the Octagon. He's just had Performance of the Night and Fight of the Night bonuses back-to-back. He comes with the edge if the UFC betting lines are to be believed.
Mir has the most fights in UFC heavyweight history - as well as the most wins - and first won the UFC belt 11 years ago. He then regained it seven years ago (the interim title at least) and had his last crack of the whip in 2012. Since his loss to Junior dos Santos he went on a a career-worst losing streak of four fights. However, he now has consecutives knockouts against tough opposition that puts him right back in the mix.
It's a crazy time. Mir has 27 fights over a 16 year career and Arlovski has 35 fights, also over a 16 year career. They've both been champions, albeit many years ago, and they've both been destined for the knackeryard if you listen to the fickle MMA fans. Now though, both are in great positions in the UFC with a streak of solid wins behind them.
They'll meet on September 5th to show that there's life in these old dogs yet, and realistically an emphatic win for either man could put them amongst the championship picture. You can't teach an old dog new tricks, but if you keep him hungry he'll still have plenty of fight in him.