The main event of UFC 119 was originally scheduled to be Frank Mir vs Minotauro Nogueira. It was to be a highly anticipated rematch that we've all been waiting to see. Unfortunately it is not to be, at least not yet. Nogueira will be going under the knife to correct problems with his hips and knees. The UFC was left with little time to come up with a replacement but they found one in what seemed to be record time. The same day the news broke that Nogueria was out the news broke that Mirko Cro Cop was in.
All things considered this fight makes the most sense of what they could give us with Big Nog out. Cro Cop is coming off a gimme win over Anthony Perosh and a heavily aided victory over Pat Barry. As impressive as Mirko may have looked, you can't deny that he had a ton of help. That said, he looked much more like the Cro Cop of old as opposed to the one getting blitzed by Junior Dos Santos. He looked pretty slow too but that could be attributed to the scary athletic speed that Pat Barry possesses.
Frank Mir hasn't fought since getting manhandled by Shane Carwin back at UFC 111. Mir, for being as smart as he seems to be, went into that fight with just a horrible gameplan. He was so worried about getting taken down and smashed a la Brock Lesnar by the much stronger Carwin that he was content to work the clinch game against the fence. The problem was he did not account for the speed of Carwin and the brilliant execution of his dirty boxing game. A few big uppercuts and Mir was done for. After going through a bit of an identity crisis regarding what weight he should fight at, even going so far as to say he wanted to drop down to 205, he seems to have finally settled on maintaining a smaller but speedy heavyweight frame. This should work beautifully against Cro Cop.
We haven't heard from Mir since the switch in opponents but Cro Cop has done a few interviews and it's a bit odd the way he's approaching this fight. Here is what he had to say to Index Sport via Middle Easy:
"It is certain that I will not be able to go full force. I was left with only five weeks to prepare."
"I would not agree to the madness of this fight if Lorenzo Fertitta didn't beg me to step in. They were in a difficult situation because Minotauro could not fight, and this is my way to repay [the UFC]. This is for the whole UFC and the fans who appreciate me. Regardless of the situation and the short-term preparation, some things in life must be separated. They enabled me to have a fruitful life and I will be eternally grateful."
"Just this morning I had a good workout. Perhaps the worst thing is the immediacy of the training and get tired out there. This all, of course, does not mean that I am looking for an excuse, but I certainly will not be ready. However, it still means I can lay [Frank Mir] out in the first round."
Usually when someone says they are not looking to make an excuse, they are. Kind of seems like he is laying the foundation for the reasons for his loss, doesn't it? Maybe he believes it's a foregone conclusion. I certainly do. Mir may not have as many tools in his standup game but he is definitely proficient enough with his hands to touch Cro Cop's chin. While not being as fast as Pat Barry is there is no doubt in my mind that his speed is as good as, if not better than, Cro Cop's. If this fight makes it to the floor, well, suffice it to say that Mir will have a gigantic edge there. Simply put, there are a lot more ways for Mir to win then there are for Cro Cop.
Here is another question I thought of. How long does a typical training camp run for a fighter in the UFC? Is it any more than five weeks? Cro Cop states that he will certainly not be able to go full force because of the short notice but is it really that short? Seems to me that's plenty of time to get ready for an opponent. He even says he wouldn't agree to the "madness" of the fight if not for the UFC begging him to. Sounds like he's really going over the top in trying to convince everyone that if he loses it's not his fault; it's because he wanted to do something nice for the UFC even to his own detriment. Five weeks seems like plenty of time to get ready to me even though Cro Cop says he will surely not be. Just to cover all of his bases though he makes sure to throw in that he can still knock out Mir in the first round.
I guess that's the one good thing in talking like this. If he manages to win, which you shouldn't count on and I'll eat these words later if I'm wrong, he'll look even better. We'll see how ready he is come UFC 119.