Frank Mir’s repugnant hubris has shown no signs of deceleration during the lead up to this Saturday’s main event with MMA legend Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipović. Such behavior may be a promotional tactic or just a byproduct of Mir’s love for the scent of his own flatulence, I prefer the latter. Mir’s gaseous confidence has once again permeated the public domain through all possible mediums. In spite of his nauseating persona, Mir has asserted himself among the heavyweight elite through his grappling aptitude. In 1999 Mir attained the prestigious status as ADCC open class champion. I witnessed the consequences of such size and skill first hand as he cracked Tim Sylvia’s radius and ulna in twain via armbar back at UFC 48. At the other end of the spectrum a brief visit to youtube will serve as ample evidence to justify Cro Cop’s famed quote delivered with genuine assurance prior to the PRIDE 2006 Open-Weight Grand Prix, “Right leg hospital; left leg cemetery.” Excluding the executioner sentiment, this bold assertion was an alarming reality for numerous opponents who found themselves waking up to a cloudy haze of reverberation.
Upon Zuffa’s procurement of PRIDE FC, Cro Cop was among the most desired acquisitions. Since entering the UFC Mirko has struggled with inconsistent results amplified by mystic expectations. One can hope Cro Cop regains his luster at the expense of Mr. Mir.
Mir’s fight against an ailing Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira showed his ability to effectively implement angles and footwork into his striking. However improved his striking may be there is no comparison with Mirko whose K-1 World Grand Prix runner up credentials and PRIDE open weight grand prix title trump Mir’s striking on paper and in action with ease. Coming off a KO loss, Mir must have hot flashes at the image of Cro Cop’s left leg.
In effort to accentuate his strengths, Cro Cop has devoted himself tirelessly to his sprawl and takedown defense. Mir has never been known for his wrestling or takedown ability so I don’t foresee him being proactive in this sense, instead he could seek his takedowns from the clinch or by pulling guard where chances for victory are increased exponentially. It is never wise to assume certainty in any fight, especially in the heavyweight division where a zig when one should have zaged is of exceptional importance. Cognizant of this, Mir’s jiu jitsu aptitude and Cro Cop’s kickboxing proficiency allow for a rudimentary analysis and prediction contingent on where the fight is waged.
Ryan Bader v. Antônio Rogério Nogueira
Stylistically this may be the most intriguing matchup of UFC 119. Bader seems to have all the qualities worthy of championship aspirations. Expanding on his All-American wrestling base, The Ultimate Fighter 8 winner has developed legitimate KO power with his boxing. Nogueira has the edge in experience by a wide margin in both quantity and quality. Little Nog has not garnered nearly the same level of adoration or accolades as his twin brother but that is not to say he isn’t capable of equal or greater success in due time. Little Nog showcased his world class potential within the PRIDE ring where he assembled impressive wins over the likes of Sakuraba, Overeem, and Dan Henderson. Momentum waned as a consequence of a surprising KO loss to Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou at PRIDE 33 in 2007, Nogueira’s lone stoppage loss. Since that setback Nogueira strung together eight consecutive wins securing his place as a bona fide contender in the UFC light heavyweight division.
Bader’s intrinsic athletic ability has afforded him the luxury to pick up the various aspects of MMA with fluidity and progression. While Bader’s boxing has shown marked improvement he seems to have the tendency to throw looping arm punches at times, leaving him ripe for exploitation by little Nog’s southpaw stance. Nogueira’s boxing resume is of impressive caliber highlighted with the 2006 and 2007 Brazilian Super Heavyweight Champion and a bronze medal in the 2007 Pan American Games. Following suit to his heavyweight brother, little Nog also possesses that rare inexplicable terminator quality, exhibiting palpable resolve in nightmarish scenarios. Considering the mutual striking talents a KO would not be surprising from either party, while Bader’s wrestling will attempt to subdue Nogueira’s submissions.
Matt Serra v. Chris Lytle
Two of the most affable fighters inside and outside the cage will square off in a rematch of their initial meeting in 2006 at The Ultimate Fighter 4 finale resulting in Serra’s hand raised via split decision. In effort to find his optimal weight class, Serra has amassed very positive results at 170 where many felt his body type would be a hindrance. No fighter enjoys the demands of cutting weight and fighting at 170 as opposed to 155 allows Serra to partake in the luxuries that come with competing at a more natural weight. While customary to cut weight for a physical advantage, the deleterious effects on the body, long term and short cannot be denied. At welterweight Serra is able to train in a physically healthier environment while preserving his endurance and knockout power. Serra, Renzo Gracie’s first American black belt and ADCC silver medalist, has forced opponents to sincerely acknowledge his punching ability.
Lytle is a fight promoters dream. He inevitably comes in with excellent cardio and a mindset of controlled aggression that generally takes shape in gripping exchanges where fans are treated to the fusion of technique and bad intentions. Lytle experienced notable success as a professional boxer with a 13-1 professional record, but as a testament to his all inclusive talents, ‘Lights Out’ has secured victory by means of submission in twenty of his twenty nine MMA victories. Lytle should exercise his reach and boxing skills to pick his shots keeping Serra’s power at bay, while being mindful of the precarious positions Serra can invoke if the fight hits the mat.
Sean Sherk v. Evan Dunham
The Sherk and Dunham matchup offers a quintessential contest pitting a trailblazing veteran against the new generation of promising talent. Dunham renders an unblemished 11-0 record with great promise before him. Having been inactive since May of ’09, Sherk faces inherent hiccups of an aging athlete exacerbated by the very real obstacle of ring rust. While Dunham represents youthful exuberance, the veteran Sherk has vocalized his championship convictions.
Sherk has not fared well against rangy punchers who can easily implement their jab exploiting his frequent reach disadvantage. I am reminded of the familiar sound of Sherk’s hissing combinations, while impressive aesthetically they have lacked in effectiveness. Dunham should employ his reach with the confidence to successfully fight off his back if need be.