Tonight could mark the end of Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic's career as a mixed martial artist. If Frank Mir comes in and runs him over, it might mean the end for the Croatian. He's had a legendary career; one that will be looked back on fondly by so many fans of MMA and more specifically, PRIDE. A win would mean another shot at glory. It makes for a great narrative to the main event of the evening. The rest of the card is loaded with potential barn burners. By night's end, Dana White may want to give a bonus to each man participating in the PPV portion of the show. Tough to pick some of these matchups but nonetheless, in we go.
Frank Mir vs Mirko Filipovic - Cro Cop is coming in with the opportunity to completely turn around his career in the UFC. After putting in so many spectacular performances in K-1 and PRIDE, he's had a rather lackluster run with the world's premier MMA organization. He's taking the fight on 5 weeks notice after an injury to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and he's already been making excuses, saying he surely won't be ready and now he's got the eye injury to think about. If he comes in anything less than prepared he'll get run through. Mir has already stated that he's studied tape on Mirko and found that those who give him too much respect get walked down and taken out. He won't allow Cro Cop to stalk him and I expect him to be very aggressive in the stand up. I believe Mir has both the power and technique to finish Mir with his hands but he might get a little antsy and want to take the fight where he has the big edge, which is on the mat. There's no doubt in my mind that the winner of this fight will be Frank Mir, I'm just having trouble deciding how he'll do it. I'll go with Frank Mir via KO in round 2.
Ryan Bader vs Antonio Rogerio Nogueira - Big Nog might be out but we still get the opportunity to see his twin brother in action. After blitzing Luiz Cane in his UFC debut, Minotoro was slated to face off with Forrest Griffin in what was being considered a possible number one contenders fight. After Forrest got hurt Jason Brilz came in and with his strong wrestling credentials gave Nogueira a hell of a fight. Those same credentials are held by his opponent in this fight in Ryan Bader. Undefeated and one of the UFC's most prized young prospects, Bader has been running through everyone on his way to this fight. A win would likely push either fighter into a number one contender fight or a matchup with Jon Jones. Brilz may have shown the blueprint to beating Nogueira by controlling him and not getting sucked into submissions. The problem was he allowed too many sweeps from the bottom that put Nogueira in advantageous positions. Bader has a power and speed advantage but far less technique as far as the boxing match up. This is really a tough fight. How savvy will Bader be if Nogueira threatens will submissions? Not enough. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira via submission in round 3.
Sean Sherk vs Evan Dunham - As I stated in a previous post here on Cageside, I wonder how many people know that Sean Sherk has only ever lost to current or former champions of the sport. Dunham, to his credit, has never lost at all. Granted, he has just 11 career fights to Sherk's 38. In those 11 fights he's already managed to defeat Efrain Escudero and Tyson Griffin. A win here would shoot him up into the top tier of the division. He'll have a 4 inch reach advantage that should work in his favor if Sherk decides to abandon his wrestling like he's done in his past few fights. Dunham largely won the Griffin fight with his counter striking and he should be able to use that to stun Sherk and keep him off kilter. He's proficient enough in his wrestling and has good enough jiu-jitsu that I think he'll put himself on the map here. He's a tough young kid and he could cause a lot of problems for a lot of fighters in the future. Evan Dunham via unanimous decision.
Matt Serra vs Chris Lytle - I can't imagine these two spending even a minute of the 15 possible on the ground. They both have more than capable jiu-jitsu skills and have won many a fight by submission but we should be in for a little stand up treat. Both guys are 36 and don't have any illusions of fighting for the title again in their career. So why not give the fans a show? Lytle has won 7 bonuses in his UFC career. If things go well, we'll likely see him earn his 8th. Not sure what to make of this matchup. Lytle has 15 professional boxing fights but only 4 knockout wins in his MMA career. Serra has big power in his hands. If he finds the right spot, guys go to sleep. That said, Lytle has never been knocked out before. I find myself going back and forth but I'll go with the same result as the first time. Matt Serra via split decision.
Jeremy Stephens vs Melvin Guillard - It's almost amazing to think that Guillard is just 27 years old and has had 35 career fights. He's won 5 of his last 6 and a win here would go a long way in making fans take him more seriously in the Lightweight division. His problem has always been getting in trouble against guys with the skills to make him pay when he comes rushing in. Does Stephens have those skills? No. He could try to use his wrestling to grind his way to a decision but I don't expect that and neither should you. Should be a great way to start the night. Melvin Guillard via TKO in Round 2.
Quick undercard picks after the jump.Undercard picks:
C.B. Dollaway vs Joe Doerksen - I like Dollaway here but Doerksen might surpirse me.
Joey Beltran vs Matt Mitrione - It will be fun for the first round. After that it's an ugly Mitrione victory.
Pat Audinwood vs Thiago Tavares - Audinwood just won't have enough for Tavares.
Steve Lopez vs Waylon Lowe - Ummm....Lowe.
T.J. Grant vs Julio Paulino - Because he's better all around, the pick is Grant.
Mark Hunt vs Sean McCorkle - Nostalgia can be fun. Hopefully Hunt makes it happen.