Greetings, BR readers! I hope you've all enjoyed a prosperous fortnight. I briefly considered writing a preview for UFC 118, but I came to realize that it'd be pointless. I just couldn't get excited for the matchups, especially after my main man (copyright: Ahmad Rashad) Terry Etim dropped out of the Lauzon fight with an injury.
And did you really need me to predict Couture-Toney for you? That outcome was more obvious than Heidi Montag's face job. Now Randy can continue his seemingly eternal ride off into the sunset, and Toney can go buy some more dapper suits. Riveting.
UFC 119 is a rock-solid card with several intriguing matchups, including behemoth Sean McCorkle taking on a down-on-his-luck Mark Hunt (a SLIMMED DOWN Mark Hunt, I might add!). I'm allowed to be interested in "freak show" fights, right? This is America, and if I want to root for one of my all time favorite strikers (despite a five-fight losing streak) then dammit, that's precisely what I'm going to do.
Onto the main card.
Chris Lytle (29-17-5) vs. Matt Serra (11-6)
At the risk of stating the obvious, the UFC has seen quite a few rematches lately. Fortunately, they've been leaning more towards the "Machida-Rua I" variety (an honest attempt to remedy any sort of judging or scoring injustice that may have taken place) and not the "Tito-Ken" variety ($$$. Plus, Ken seems to enjoy getting pummeled).
The first fight between these two ended in a controversial decision win for Serra, in what could only be described as a three-round foot stomp festival. To me, foot stomps are the MMA equivalent of sliding into first base in baseball. Yeah, I mean, there's no guarantee that it WON'T work, it's just that it's such a ridiculous and desperate act that it somehow makes you seem spiritually emasculated in some way.I hope Matt Serra doesn't surf the Internet regularly.
I tend to prefer rematches in which both fighters have made significant improvements in their games. There is certainly a case for that here, as Serra has grown much more comfortable slinging his powerful strikes early in fights, which is certainly understandable when you blow GSP out of the building.
Lytle has posted a 6-4 UFC mark since this fight, as a more balls-to-the-wall style has earned him multiple fight of the night nods.
This one is hard to figure. If Serra can back Lytle up early and force him to use defensive grappling against the cage, I could see him winning on points. I'm not sure if Matty wants to get into a slugfest here. Sure, his strikes are more powerful, but Lytle has a chin of granite and wont stop winging fastballs until the final horn, if Serra lets him.
I realize I'm a complete sucker for Chris Lytle. I know this. Which is why I'm picking him to narrowly eke out a split decision win after a back-and-forth battle.
Sean Sherk (32-4-1) vs. Evan Dunham (11-0)
Sherk has been around forever, and even though he has only lost to current or former UFC champions, he is not a finisher. When he's doing what he does best, he's in the top position throwing strikes.
That being said, he seems to fall in love with his standup far too often, which gets him popped by guys with longer reach. In case you haven't noticed, that's exactly what up-and-comer Evan Dunham is, and he's a much better striker to boot.
This matchup is a nightmare for Sherk. Expect Dunham to outhustle and outclass him en route to a unanimous decision win, most likely due to implementing a better game plan.
Melvin Guillard (25-8-2) vs. Jeremy Stephens (17-5)
After landing a crushing knee to the body to end Waylon Lowe's night, an amped up Guillard made UFC and possibly MMA history in his post fight interview—he became the first fighter to call out another fighter by the wrong name.
(I'm paraphrasing) "Do ya'll wanna see me fight Jeremy Stephenson?"
This is quite obviously a frenetic clash of styles. Though I suppose I'm as big a fan of the Stephens-dos Anjos "tiger uppercut" KO as anybody, an overlooked display of striking was Guillard's feverish 36 second massacre of German kickboxer Dennis Siver.
Siver's rocked about 1.3 seconds into the fight, somehow gets up, eats two more clean right straights, flops on his back, and proceeds to eat about five unanswered missiles to his dome before the fight is mercifully stopped. Melvin lands like 17 out of 20 strikes. It's incredible. And it's not like Siver is a pushover.
I don't see how somone doesn't get scadattled in this one. These two are so full of nervous energy and tension that if they ran full speed into each other, I honestly think they might both explode.
However, I predict that Melvin will be just a little bit faster and a little bit stronger, taking about a round and a half to score a competitive, but clear TKO win. This one could be fight of the night material.
Ryan Bader (11-0) vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (19-3)
Before I get to my prediction on this one, I have to clear the air: Ryan Bader, I just can't take you seriously as a contender at 205 until you drop the whole "Darth" thing. Hey, you might get there. You might not. But "Darth"? Really?
Plus, are you using the moniker ironically (just "having fun with it") or earnestly ("Darth Vader was the bad ass of the universe, therefore, I must aspire to be the same")? Oh, and how are we supposed to feel every time you come out to the Imperial March? It's... weird.
That being said, this fight is tailor-made for Bader's style. Remember when Jason Brilz sloppily, yet barely, outwrestled Rogerio for fifteen minutes and everyone acted all shocked? Well, Bader has more in the way of explosiveness and power in his fists than Brilz, and wont allow Lil' Nog to sweep as easy as Brilz did.
Of course, if Rogerio lets his hands fly like he's capable of, render those points moot. The thing with guys like Rogerio, though, is that it all comes back to the wrestling. He simply doesn't have the chops off his back, like his big bro, to consistently finish fights from there, and his defensive wrestling is next to non- existent. I actually don't think this fight will even be that competitive. Bader can score takedowns at will and can end the fight with one big shot on his feet, but I think he'll beat Lil' Nog by unanimous decision.
Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic (27-7-2) vs. Frank Mir (13-5)
For starters, let me say that this fight has me decidedly more intrigued than the Mir-Nog rematch. It's widely accepted as truth that Nogueira's condition prior to the bout affected his performance negatively, but still, there's only a certain number of shellackings a man can take. Nobody tells you what that number is.
I'm a huge Nog fan, and I greatly admire, even glorify, his accomplishments. I just don't want to see him turn into the Brazilian Sakuraba, that's all.
Though Mirko looked solid against Patrick Barry, the fact that he actually looked like he wanted to be in the cage fighting was a bigger factor for me. I've had a long-standing theory that Mirko hasn't cared since his 2006 OWGP win, but in his last fight, he pretty much took that theory out back and shot it with one of his anti-terrorist firearms.
Both guys have a history of being front runners, though it should be noted that Cro Cop showed undeniable heart and toughness against Barry. You're cringing at the first sign of trouble if you're a Cro Cop fan; all it takes is one on the jaw to make his legs go all silly putty. Then again, it's not like the UFC's planning to release a "Frank Mir's Greatest Comebacks" DVD anytime soon.
No matter which version of Mirko shows up (i.e. "Engaged Mirko" or "Bored and Lethargic Mirko"), I think Mir will mess around on his feet for too long and get TKO'd. I suppose a sub from Mir isn't out of the question, since this version of Cro Cop is clearly a little long-in-the-tooth, but I think Mirko outclasses him on the feet and hopefully dusts off the ol' left high kick, just for old times' sake. Cro Cop by TKO, round 2.