UFC 119: Mir vs. Cro Cop (or Fir vs. Cro Cop if you get your MMA news from ESPN for some reason) is less than a week away, so I'm here with my picks for the five Pay-Per-View fights and the two preliminary fights airing on Spike TV. The fights I'll be covering:
Heavyweight Bout: Frank Mir vs. Mirko Cro Cop
Light Heavyweight Bout: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Ryan Bader
Lightweight Bout: Sean Sherk vs. Evan Dunham
Welterweight Bout: Matt Serra vs. Chris Lytle
Lightweight Bout: Melvin Guillard vs. Jeremy Stephens
Spike TV Preliminary Fights:
Middleweight Bout: CB Dollaway vs. Joe Doerksen
Heavyweight Bout: Joey Beltran vs. Matt Mitrione
The first preliminary fight airing on Spike features a heavyweight clash between Matt "Meathead" Mitrione and Joey "The Mexicutioner" Beltran.
Mitrione (2-0, 2-0 UFC) won his first bout on The Ultimate Fighter in a decision win over Scott Junk. After losing to James McSweeney in the quarterfinals, he knocked out Marcus Jones at The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale. In his first post-TUF bout, Mitrione faced fellow TUF alum and internet sensation Kimbo Slice on the main card of UFC 113. Mitrione utilized good leg kicks and ground and pound, leading to a second round TKO stoppage.
Beltran (12-3, 2-0 UFC) takes a three-fight win streak (which started with a TKO victory over former UFC fighter Houston Alexander) in to this bout. In his UFC debut at UFC 109, Beltran scored a TKO victory over a badly gassed Rolles Gracie. Most recently, he won a dominating unanimous decision against Tim Hague at UFC 113.
It's hard to know what to make of Mitrione at this point in his career. He knocked out Marcus Jones, who is well known to have a glass jaw, and he didn't look overly impressive against a relatively one-legged Slice. Technically, I believe Beltran is in a better position at this point, and I believe he will win this fight.
Beltran via TKO, 2nd Round
The other fight airing on Spike pits middleweight veteran Joe "El Dirte" Doerksen against The Ultimate Fighter 7 finalist C.B. "The Doberman*" Dollaway.
Doerksen (46-12, 2-5 UFC) is one of the most veteran fighters in the UFC, having made his debut at UFC 49. He has been a journeyman in his MMA career, but has scored wins over Patrick Cote, Chris Leben, and Ed Herman. In his most recent UFC bout, at UFC 113, Doerksen beat Tom Lawlor by rear naked choke in the second round, after being rocked by Lawlor in the first round. Doerksen is best known for his grappling abilities, with 33 of his 46 victories being via submission.
Dollaway (10-2, 4-2 UFC) competed on Season 7 of The Ultimate Fighter. He reached the semi-finals, and was looking impressive against Amir Sadollah, but Sadollah was able to secure an armbar in the final round of the fight. After finalist Jesse Taylor was kicked off the show, Dollaway defeated Tim Credeur to earn a rematch with Sadollah, which he lost once again by armbar. Since the loss to Sadollah, Dollaway has gone 4-1 in the UFC, including an impressive submission victory via Peruvian Necktie over Jesse Taylor at UFC Fight Night: Silva vs. Irvin.
Dollaway is a good fighter, but Doerksen is tough match for him stylistically. Both of Dollaway's losses to Sadollah, as well as his most recent loss to Tom Lawlor, came by submission after or during the process of a takedown. Doerksen's aforementioned grappling skills will really put Dollaway's submission defense to the test, one which I just don't think he'll pass.
Doerksen via Submission, Round 1.
*Alternate nickname: C.B. "Put the Blow-Up" Dollaway
The first fight on the main Pay-Per-View card is a lightweight bout between Melvin "The Young Assassin" Guillard and Jeremy "Lil' Heathen" Stephens.
Guillard (24-8-2-(1 NC), 8-4 UFC) may be "The Young Assassin", but as his record indicates, he has plenty of fight experience. Guillard packs plenty of power for a lightweight, with 14 of his 24 victories coming via knockout or TKO. He also has a wrestling background and a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but don't expect him to become a grappler all of a sudden.
Stephens (18-5, 5-4 UFC) is another young lightweight who likes to come out and throw, with 13 of his 18 career wins coming by way of knockout or TKO. He also has a decent ground game, nearly submitting Spencer Fisher with a guillotine choke in their fight, but like Guillard, we shouldn't expect him to start relying on his grappling any time soon.
This fight should be a war, and the result is really anyone's guess. Neither guy has ever been knocked out. Both are susceptible to submissions, with each of their most recent losses coming by them. Stephens was arm-barred by Joe Lauzon in the main event at Ultimate Fight Night 17, and Guillard was triangle choked by Nate Diaz in the main event at UFN 19. As I mentioned, both guys have decent grappling, but the only way I see this fight ending in a submission is if one guy rocks another and slaps a guillotine or rear-naked choke on a flustered opponent. In reality, this fight should be a slugfest all the way to the end, and by the flip of a coin, I'm taking Stephens by a late TKO.
Stephens via TKO, 3rd Round.
The rematch. Serra and Lytle initially faced off in the welterweight finals of The Ultimate Fighter 4, with a title shot against Georges St. Pierre on the line. Serra defeated Lytle by a split decision in a rather uneventful fight, and went on to defeat St. Pierre for the title in one of the biggest upsets in UFC history. Both fighters have had solid careers in the UFC since their time on The Ultimate Fighter.
Serra (11-6, 7-6 UFC) never successfully defended his title, losing to St. Pierre in a rematch. He then lost to Matt Hughes in the battle-of-guys-named-Matt-who-have-beaten-GSP at UFC 98. Most recently, Serra beat Frank Trigg by knockout at UFC 109, earning Knockout of the Night. A self-described "Rocky with omoplatas", Serra is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and runs his own academy, but isn't averse to swinging for the fences.
Lytle (29-17-5, 8-8 UFC) has gained a reputation as one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC welterweight division. In his past ten fights, he has earned seven fight night bonuses- 4 Fight of the Night, 2 Submission of the Night, and a knockout of the night- as well as an undisclosed bonus for his inverse triangle/armbar submission over Matt Brown at UFC 116. Lytle has a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt of his own.
This is another tough fight to call. Both guys can swing, but still hold their own on the ground, and are tough as nails to finish. Lytle has looked more impressive as of late, and has what I believe to be a speed advantage on the ground. I like Matt Serra (except for the whole turning GSP in to a blanket thing), but I just don't think he has enough to keep up with Lytle.
Lytle via Submission, 2nd Round.
The next fight on the main card features undefeated Evan "3-D" Dunham facing off with former UFC lightweight champion Sean "The Muscle Shark" Sherk.
Dunham (11-0, 4-0 UFC) has looked impressive in 2010, defeating Efrain Escudero by a late armbar at Ultimate Fight Night 20, then Tyson Griffin by a split decision at UFC on Versus: Jones vs. Matyushenko. Dunham has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as well as the power to win by knockout, and the gas tank to go three rounds with a tank like Tyson Griffin. He will also have a height and reach advantage on the stockier Sherk.
Sherk (33-4-1, 7-4 UFC) will be fighting for the first time in 16 months. Earlier in his UFC career, he defeated Kenny Florian to win the vacant UFC lightweight championship at UFC 64 in 2006, and successfully defended it at UFC 73 against Hermes Franca, but was forced to vacate the belt after testing positive for anabolic steroids. After losing to BJ Penn in Penn's first lighweight title defense, Sherk defeated Tyson Griffin by a Unanimous Decision and most recently dropped a decision to current lightweight champion Frank Edgar. What's notable about Sherk's record is that his four losses are to former and current welterweight champions in Matt Hughes, Georges St. Pierre, Penn, and Edgar. Sherk has a tremendous wrestling background, but has good submissions and isn't averse to standing.
The result of this fight could very likely depend on which Sean Sherk shows up. If Sherk tries to box with the taller, lankier Dunham, it could be a long night of being picked apart with jabs and counterstrikes. If Sherk comes in and tries to wrestle with Dunham, he could certainly put Dunham on his back, but Dunham has submissions off his back, and looked great on the ground against Tyson Griffin, who is an absolute pitbull, much like Sherk. Sherk is certainly the more experienced fighter, but he Dunham won't be in any water in which he can't swim. He just has too many weapons.
Dunham via Sean-Sherk-is-impossible-to-submit-Decision.
The co-main event of the card features a clash of light heavyweight contenders, as Antonio Rogerio "Minotoro" Nogueira faces off against the undefeated Ultimate Fighter Season 8 winner Ryan "Darth*" Bader, with the winner moving one step closer to a title shot at 205.
Nogueira (19-3, 2-0 UFC) didn't look overly impressive in his UFC 114 bout with Jason Brilz- a late replacement for Forrest Griffin- but came away with a split decision victory. "Little Nog" is best known for being the twin brother of former Pride and UFC heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Minotauro Nogueira, as well as for his stint in Pride FC, where he scored victories over Alistair Overeem (twice), Kazushi Sakuraba, and Dan Henderson. Nogueira has shown to be extremely versatile in his victories, with a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as well as power in his hands and knees.
Bader (11-0, 4-0 UFC) is a former Arizona State wrestling standout who has transitioned extremely well to MMA. He won the TUF 8 light heavyweight championship by knocking out Vinny Magalhaes with a vicious right hook. Since the show, Bader has gone on to defeat Carmelo Marrero, Eric Schafer, and Keith Jardine. Along with Jon Jones and Phil Davis, Bader looks to lead a new breed of 205 pounders who can stand or take the fight to the ground and work some ground-and-pound.
In another close fight, I'm taking Bader. Nogueira more than likely holds a slight advantage on the feet, especially from a precision standpoint. If Bader can't hold his own or feels threatened on the feet (which is a big 'if', given his power and confidence), he can go back to his wrestling. Nogueira struggled in his fight with Jason Brilz, and Brilz' wrestling isn't nearly the quality of Bader's. What I think truly gives Bader the advantage is his submission defense. Before leaving Arizona Combat Sports, he trained with former middleweight top contender and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Thales Leites. Bader has also defeated a BJJ black belt in Schafer, spending much of the fight inside Schafer's guard, and a world jiu-jitsu champion in Magalhaes, who may be one of the few light heavyweights with a better ground game than Nogueira. Nogueira has been proven tough to finish, but I think Bader takes this fight.
Bader via Decision.
*Alternate nickname for Bader= "The Master"
The main event of the card features two heavyweight titans, with former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir squaring off against former Pride Open Weight Grand Prix champion Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic.
Mir (13-5, 11-5 UFC) defeated Tim Sylvia at UFC 47 by armbar to gain the UFC heavyweight title (see above video). Shortly thereafter, he was in a motorcycle accident that forced him to relinquish his title. Mir's return to the sport was rocky, as he dropped fights to Marcio Cruz and Brandon Vera, but put himself back in the title picture with wins over Brock Lesnar and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. He lost a title fight to Lesnar and most recently an interim title fight to Shane Carwin (he did score a quick submission win over Cheick Kongo between those fights), and is hungry to get back on track. Mir has top-notch jiu-jitsu, as evidenced in his wins over Sylvia or Lesnar, and more recently has put on weight and power, showing improvement in his stand-up against Nogueira and Kongo.
Cro Cop (27-7-2, 1 No Contest, 4-3 UFC) is one of the legends of mixed martial arts. Known for his devastating left high kicks, he has been quoted as saying "Right leg hospital, left leg cemetery" in regards to his power. He has tremendous power in his left hand as well. Cro Cop won the 2006 Pride open weight Gran Prix, defeating Wanderlei Silva and Josh Barnett in the process. Cro Cop most recently defeated Pat Barry by rear naked choke at UFC 115. Barry rocked Cro Cop in both the first and second rounds, but never capitalized, and Cro Cop submitted the exhausted Barry with 30 seconds remaining in the fight. Cro Cop only has four submission victories in his career, but has also has only been submitted once- by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira- so if the fight goes to the ground, things should get interesting.
Cro Cop is always dangerous, but I'm taking Mir in this fight. He's really tightened up his boxing and added power as of late, and more importantly, he has the killer instinct that Barry so desperately lacked against Cro Cop. Other than the kicks or big left hand, I just don't see Cro Cop having anything for Mir.
Mir via Submission, 2nd round.
Thanks for reading! I'll be sure to get a wrap-up article shortly after the fights. Don't forget to check out my other articles (especially those of you in Minnesota).