This Saturday the UFC brings you it’s first ever show live from Indianapolis. Given what Indy did to my Giants this past weekend, I am reluctant to hype or really give a damn about anything Indianapolis related this weekend, but I suppose I should let it go (after all, I did hit 4 of a kind in 3 card poker this weekend in Vegas against a dealer wearing a Peyton Manning jersey, so I guess I exacted a small amount of revenge).
The UFC 119 card was initially plagued with Big Nog being injured and pulling out from his rematch with Frank Mir in the main event, but instead we got, in my opinion, a more interesting replacement in Cro Cop. Let’s run down the fights and see if the Croatian Sensation still gives a damn, huh?
Preliminary & Spike TV Quick Picks
Mark Hunt over Sean McCorkle (Prelim)
Julio Paulino over TJ Grant (Prelim)
Waylon Lowe over Steve Lopez (Prelim)
Pat Audinwood over Thiago Tavares (Prelim)
Matt Mitrione over Joey Beltran (Spike)
Joe Doerksen over C.B. Dolloway (Spike)
Melvin Guillard vs. Jeremy Stephens
Indy, you get your main card started with a slugfest. Stephens is 18-5 with 13 knockouts while Guillard is 24-8-2-1 with 14 of his own. Both men are riding two-fight winning streaks (Guillard beat Waylon Lowe at UFC 114 and Ronnys Torres before that at 109, Stephens with a tight Fight of the Night split decision over Sam Stout at 113 and Justin Buchholz before that at Fight Night 19). While both men are susceptible to submissions, this will not be Demian Maia/Charles Oliviera jiu jitsu clinic. This fight could have FOTN written all over it with plenty of leather being thrown and neither has been knocked out. Guillard is a slight favorite and I’ll give it to him for the decision.
Jay’s Pick: Melvin Guillard via Decision
Sean Sherk vs. Evan Dunham
In another LW bout, undefeated Evan Dunham looks to make a jump up with a win over the steroid-busted, injury prone, but well conditioned Sean Sherk. The Muscle Shark has not competed since May of last year due to multiple injuries, but his ability to outwrestle his opponents, coupled by the fact that his 4 losses have come to the best in the LW/WW divisions (former WW champ Matt Hughes, GSP, BJ Penn and current LW champ Frankie Edgar). Dunham, on the other hand, is a rising star in the LW division, most recently out pointing former title contender Tyson Griffin at UFC 115. Initially, I was going to go with the streak, but Sherk’s wrestling and inability to be submitted (despite the aforementioned injuries and rust) sells me. He’s also not a bad underdog bet at +190.
Jay’s Pick: Sherk via decision
Chris Lytle vs. Matt Serra
Of all the fights on the main card, this one is puzzling me the most. Oddsmakers have Lytle the favorite around -125 and Serra around +150. Lytle is a fight night bonus-making machine, having gotten 4 FOTN bonuses (most recently his split decision loss to Marcus Davis at UFC 93), two SOTN bonuses and 1 KO of the Night bonus. He’ll let it fly on the feet but his past two wins have been both due to submission and he’s looked good on the ground. Serra most recently got his 2nd victory due to strikes against the aged Frank Trigg at UFC 109 (the other was against some French-Canadian guy you may have heard of). The former WW champ’s strength is in his Renzo Gracie-trained jiu jitsu and a pretty heavy right hand. I’ll tip my cap to the Long Island boy on this one.
Jay’s Pick: Serra via decision
Well at least we got one “Nog” on the card! With his twin brother sidelined from NogueiraFest 2010, Lil Nog looks to put together a better performance than his slightly controversial decision win over underdog Jason Brilz from UFC 114. Across from him is TUF Season 8 winner Ryan Bader, who’s undefeated and most recently KO’d Keith Jardine out of the UFC (and to Shark Fights…where he lost to Trevor Prangley) at UFC 110.
Most expected Lil Nog to destroy Brilz, but instead had some holes exposed and I expect Bader to take advantage. Bader’s ASU-bred wrestling will be his most valuable asset to control the fight on the ground and avoid Lil Nog’s submission attempts. I like Bader’s power, but he’ll have to pick his shots as standing in front of a boxer like Lil Nog is a bad idea (even if Brilz did take it to the Brazilian in their last fight). Sorry for so many going the distance, people, but I got the future LHW contender in “Darth” Bader grinding this one out as well.
Jay’s Pick: Bader via decision
Frank Mir vs. Mirko Cro Cop
Indianapolis, start your engines. Our HW main event has former champ Frank Mir against one of the prides of Pride in Cro Cop. I’d said in the opening that this fight was slightly more interesting on paper and on paper, it is. Unfortunately, Cro Cop was questionable as of last week with an eye injury and Mir has been ruminating about a possible cut to LHW, so a bit of the intrigue is lost. Cro Cop most recently got a SOTN win over Pat Barry due to a pretty weak/weird RNC and Mir took a nap face down on the canvas at UFC 111 from Shane Carwin bludgeoning his face.
Truthfully, Cro Cop has far more to gain in this fight. A win over former title-contender Mir would put Cro Cop in the mix with some good company at the top of the division. The question is does he want it? As much as I’d love to see Cro Cop go old school with a high left kick that knocks Mir out cold, I just do not see it happening. He seems older, less motivated and worn out. Let’s just hope the Croatian’s most recent win doesn’t have him thinking he’s some sort of expert on the mat.
Jay’s Pick: Mir via submission, R2
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