Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic vs. Frank Mir
Matt: It sounds weird to say this after Cro Cop terrorized PRIDE for so many years, but Mir seems like a BIG step up in competition for where he is right now. Mir has seen much tougher competition over the past year-plus, and his game is not nearly as far removed from its prime as Cro Cop’s. Despite being outclassed against Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin, Mir has put together good wins against other top heavyweights. Meanwhile, the feared left kick of Cro Cop only showed up in his fight against Pat Barry after Barry had gassed and broken his hand and foot (oh, and also after he had knocked Cro Cop down and nearly finished him). I think Mir comes out with the same kind of smart gameplanning he used to beat Big Nog and Cheick Kongo. WINNER: Mir via TKO in the 1st.
Bruce: Both of these guys need a victory in the worst way. That’s not a good position to find yourself in. I think Cro Cop has lost a step. As a result his once dreaded kicks don’t pack quite the punch they once did. That’s not to say that he couldn’t kick Mir’s head off given the opportunity. I just don’t think that opportunity will present itself. This is Mir’s first fight since his embarassing loss to Shane Carwin at UFC 111 and he needs a decisive win to prove he still belongs in the conversation. WINNER: MIR via TKO in the 2nd.
Ryan Bader vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Matt: Bader seems like a rare combination of great talent and great personality, a guy who could be the face of the organization in the future. However, that depends on whether he can step up into the elite of the division, and this feels like a big step. Li’l Nog has had some ups and downs lately, but I don’t think he can be evaluated based on that near-miss to Jason Brilz. However, Bader’s a big guy without serious questions on his cardio, so I feel more confident picking him. WINNER: Bader via unanimous decision.
Bruce: Bader is 3-0 in the UFC since winning TUF 8. Minotoro is 2-0 in the Octagon. This one has “Fight of the Night” written on it to me. However, I can’t pick against the Brazilian. WINNER: Nogueira via submission in 2nd.
Chris Lytle vs. Matt Serra
Matt: Four years after their first fight, I have no idea what to make of this rematch. Lytle is alway exciting, but always seems to beat the up-and-coming guys while losing to the established veterans. Meanwhile, Serra’s last four fights (spanning three years and change) have been his split with Georges St. Pierre, a unanimous decision loss to Hughes that SEEMED close when you were watching it and his demolition of Frank Trigg. Based on that evidence, I have no idea what to make of Matt Serra, and thus have no idea what to make of this fight. Through gritted teeth, I’ll give this one to Lytle, because it sounds like Serra might be close to retirement and Lytle has been more consistent in recent memory. WINNER: Lytle via TKO in the 3rd.
Bruce: Serra is a long way removed from his victory over GSP in 2007. In fact, since then he’s only had 3 UFC fight and lost two of those. Lytle is the local in this one. The Indy crowd is going to be solidly behind him. He’s never been KO’ed or submitted. These two met previously in the TUF 4 Finale with Serra winning by split decision. WINNER: LYTLE via submission in 1st.
Evan Dunham vs. Sean Sherk
Matt: I have always liked Sherk, and thought/still think he got jobbed by the California State Athletic Commission on his positive test for steroids in 2007. He’s a guy without the natural athleticism of his peers who overcompensates with a ridiculous workout regiment and diet/supplement cycle. Unfortunately, the controversy has dogged him ever since, and in the meantime the lightweight division has seen an influx of young wrestlers who can match trump his skill set. Evan Dunham is one such young wrestler, and given Dunham’s recent performances, I think he puts it to Sherk to elevate his name in the title picture. WINNER: Dunham via unanimous decision.
Bruce: Sherk is the kind of fighter who wins the fights he’s supposed to and loses the fights he’s supposed to. He’s consistent that way. Unfortunately for him, Dunham is far more consistent. He’s 11-0 with his last four victories inside the Octagon. I think he makes it 5 straight here. WINNER: DUNHAM via submission in 3rd.
Melvin Guillard vs. Jeremy Stephens
Matt: Guillard called Stephens out after his win in May because he knew this would be a slugfest that reflects well on both fighters. Stephens has a reputation as a banger after winning some Knockout of the Night bonuses, but like Guillard, his UFC record is very inconsistent. I know Stephens is the same guy I’ve always seen in the cage. I’m not so sure about Guillard. When in doubt, I’ll go with the Greg Jackson fighter, as Melvin showed some marked improvement in his game since hooking up with Jackson’s team. WINNER: Guillard via unanimous decision.
Bruce: Both of these guys are on 2 fight winning streaks. One of them is going to lose. I think that one will be Guillard. I think the younger Stephens will keep Guillard off balance and score knockout victory. WINNER: STEPHENS via KO in 1st
PRELIMINARY CARD (Spike TV)
C.B. Dollaway vs. Joe Doerksen
Matt: Joe Doerksen is on a nice streak, capped with his come-from-behind win over Tom Lawlor, who himself defeated Dolloway last year. Dolloway is younger with stronger wrestling credentials and more upside, but so far that upside has been balanced with a weakness for submissions. How convenient, then, that Joe Doerksen seems to win a lot of fights by submission (33 of 46 wins). Convenient for Joe Doerksen, I mean. Because he will win this fight by submission. WINNER: Joe Doerksen via submission in the 2nd.
Bruce: Doerkson, a BJJ practitioner, has won his last 7 fights. The caveat? Only 1 of those was in the UFC. Prior to that he lost 2 UFC fights. Dolloway, another TUF alumni, has won four of his last five in the UFC, including a submission win with the elusive Peruvian necktie submission. I don’t think he’ll submit Doerkson, but I do think he’ll do enough to get another win. WINNER: DOLLOWAY via split decision.
Joey Beltran vs. Matt Mitrione
Matt: Both guys are known for upsets over more touted opponents (Rolles Gracie and Kimbo Slice, respectively) that effectively booted said “name” out of the UFC. Both have two UFC wins. It’s crappy of me to write this off as a toss-up, but that’s what I’m gonna do. Both seem to prefer to stand and trade, but Mitrione trains with fames striking instructor Duke Roufus and I get the feeling I would burst into tears if he punched me anywhere, so I think he takes it. WINNER: Mitrione via TKO in 1st.
Bruce: Mitrione has gone 2-0 since his run on The Ultimate Fighter. In his last fight, he ended the UFC career of Kimbo Slice. Beltran is in Slice, but that doesn’t change anything. Mitrione, for all his TUF histrionics, is an impressive fighter inside the Octagon. I look for him to make it 3-0 here. WINNER: MITRIONE via KO in 2nd.