The UFC returns to Indiana on Saturday, September 25 to deliver the fans a dynamite line up from the middle ranks of their ever deepening roster. UFC 119: Mir vs. Cro Cop features stellar match-ups from every UFC division except the middleweights, including a rematch between “The Terror” Matt Serra (10-6) and “Lights Out” Chris Lytle (29-17-5) and a light-heavyweight showdown between “Darth” Ryan Bader (11-0) and “Little Nog” Antonio Rogerio Nogeuira (18-3). But the headliner honors go to former two-time UFC heavyweight world champion Frank Mir (13-5) and the 2006 PRIDE Open-Weight Grand Prix winner “Cro Cop” Mirko Filipovic (27-8-2). It’s a do or die situation for both men. A loss for Mir means he will likely never taste UFC gold again; a loss for Filipovic means almost certain retirement. Will Cro Cop’s left leg take Mir’s head or will Mir take Cro Cop’s left leg?
At First Glance: This appears to be the classic striker vs. grappler match-up that the UFC was built on. On one side, you have former K1 kickboxing superstar Mirko Cro Cop, a man whose left leg is said to land you in the cemetery. On the other is submission prodigy Frank Mir, a man who has Brock Lesnar’s (5-1) leg and “The Maine-iac” Tim Sylvia’s (27-6) arm “on his wall.” Both men have suffered in recent times, with Mir going 3-2 since 2008 and Cro Cop sitting at 3-3 in his UFC career.
Inside and Out: A deeper look reveals that this fight is not the striker/grappler pairing it appears to be on the surface. While Mir has a clear advantage in the submission game, his wrestling may not be adequate to get past Cro Cop’s significant takedown defense. On the other side of the cage, Mirko Cro Cop is by far the superior stand-up fighter, but he has shown a recent trend to wilt under pressure. If this fight hits the mat, Mir will easily submit Mirko, but he may end up having to pull guard or otherwise sacrifice position to get there. The key to this bout is whether or not Mir comes out aggressive. Cro Cop has shown over the past several years that if you attack and keep coming forward, he shuts down completely. An out of the blocks blitz with the hands would likely allow Mir to do as he pleases for the rest of the bout. However, there is an issue. His style has been a stalking, counter boxing and that will likely not be aggressive enough to intimidate Cro Cop into his retreat, clinch, push away, and repeat panic mode. Mir’s boxing style plays right into Cro Cop’s hands.
The Wild Card: Mir is a cerebral fighter. This is probably the most dangerous trait for an opponent to possess in any combat sport. Cro Cop can’t rely on Mir using his typical style of fighting because Mir will study him and adapt appropriately. Cro Cop can’t count on Mir waiting on him to counter strike like he did against Nogeuira. Look for Mir to come out swinging in order to goad Cro Cop into complacency before taking him down and taking some piece of the Croatian head hunter’s anatomy apart.
The Verdict: The real deciding factor in this fight will be Mir’s intelligence. Cro Cop, like so many other fighters, fights the same fight every time. That is exactly what Mir needs to succeed. Lesnar beat Mir in their rematch by changing his approach and throwing Mir’s game plan off. Cro Cop needs to use a different approach than his usual controlled aggression if he wants to throw a wrench into Mir’s plans. Don’t put your paycheck on that happening. Mir by Kimura in the 2nd.