The end of September is upon us, and the Zuffa machine is in full swing as both the UFC and WEC are holding big events within the next week. First on the schedule is UFC 119, which takes place on Saturday, September 25th from the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. The card will feature a main event heavyweight showdown between Frank Mir and Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic with a solid light heavyweight battle between Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Ryan Bader also being featured. Matt Serra, Chris Lytle, Sean Sherk, Evan Dunham, Melvin Guillard, and Jeremy Stephens will all be in action on the main card as well.
Before we take a look at the great UFC 119 main card battles, here's an in-depth look at the UFC 119 preliminary card, which will air two fights live on Spike TV one hour before the UFC 119 pay-per-view begins. Tune in at 9:00 PM EST on Spike TV for some free action.
Middleweight: C.B. Dollaway (10-2, 4-2 UFC) vs. Joe Doerksen (46-12, 2-5 UFC): Headlining the live Spike TV portion of the preliminary card, The Ultimate Fighter season 7 runner-up and NCAA All-American wrestler C.B. Dollaway will battle true mixed martial arts veteran and submission specialist Joe Doerksen in middleweight action. Dollaway enters the contest after defeating both Jay Silva and Goran Reljic via unanimous decision at UFN 19 and UFC 110 respectively. Doerksen surprised everyone at UFC 113 as he submitted Tom Lawlor in the second round after nearly succumbing to unconsciousness in the first frame. He earned himself a second opportunity with the promotion while also extending his winning streak to six with the win.
While the first bout on the live Spike TV card features a heavyweight slugfest, this battle is more along of the lines of an interesting style match-up. Dollaway's wrestling ability in combination with his striking skills could prove to be too much for Doerksen, but Doerksen has shown much improved finishing ability in his hands at this late portion of his career. He also happens to be one of the more dynamic submission specialists in the sport, although he's had the propensity to stay on the feet more often in recent years.
Dollaway's submission defense should be a concern here as Doerksen has the ability to catch his opponents, but I imagine this fight will probably turn out to be a striker's duel for a majority of the first two rounds. While most fans would believe Dollaway should get the better of Doerksen, Doerksen's improvements make that type of battle somewhat intriguing. Doerksen has proven that he can stun his opponents and finish them in the last few years, and it isn't inconceivable that he can't do the same to Dollaway.
Unfortunately, I'm not confident that he can do it. His takedown defense isn't phenomenal, and I'm more confident that Dollaway's submission defense has improved enough for him to implement a takedown game in this fight. While I don't think he'll do a lot of damage from top control, I think he can be effective enough to score points. Look for Dollaway to strike a bit for the first round or two, but he'll resort to what he knows best if Doerksen happens to catch him. Dollaway via decision.
Heavyweight: Matt Mitrione (2-0, 2-0 UFC) vs. Joey Beltran (12-3, 2-0 UFC): The live Spike TV portion of the preliminary card starts off with a bang as a fun, casual fan-friendly showdown between Joey Beltran and Matt Mitrione will be featured. Both fighters are riding two-fight win streaks with Beltran defeating Rolles Gracie and Tim Hague while Mitrione knocked out Marcus Jones and Kimbo Slice.
Beltran has the obvious experience advantage along with the historical fact that he's never been knocked out. Mitrione is still considered a rather green prospect, and while he's shown some improvement from his first professional fight to his second -- he's still very raw in terms of technique. Beltran is by no means a technician on the feet, but he's fairly accurate with his strikes, aggressive, and uses his wrestling effectively.
Mitrione's size and reach will once again be an issue, but Beltran's experience should allow him to avoid it and pepper Mitrione early. Once inside, Beltran is going to wear down Mitrione and expose his weaknesses in the conditioning department. A tired Mitrione is going to have a hard time defending his chin, and Beltran will take full advantage.
Lightweight: Thiago Tavares (14-3-1, 4-3-1 UFC) vs. Pat "Awesomely Awesome" Audinwood (9-0-1, 0-0 UFC): That's really his nickname, folks. Really. The former Abercrombie & Fitch model and high school wrestler was scheduled to battle Aaron Riley, but an injury forced him off the card and put Thiago Tavares in his place. While Riley was no walk in the park, Tavares' black belts in jiu-jitsu and Judo will prove to be a huge hurdle that Audinwood will have to overcome.
Audinwood's style mainly stems from his wrestling experience, although he does have submission ability off his back and in top control. His record isn't strong by any means, but stringing together a ten-fight undefeated streak isn't exactly easy either. Unfortunately, being thrown in with a high-level grappler like Tavares probably won't keep that record unblemished after Saturday night. Tavares' grappling is likely going to be too much for Audinwood to handle on the ground, and the fact that Audinwood's strengths involve grappling only helps Tavares. Unless Tavares decides to strike for three straight rounds, he should win easily.
Lightweight: Steve Lopez (12-2-1, 0-1 UFC) vs. Waylon Lowe (8-3, 0-1 UFC): Your typical "loser leaves town" match-up in the UFC lightweight division as Steve Lopez and Waylon Lowe will go to battle after losing to Jim Miller and Melvin Guillard respectively. Neither fighter has an impressive strength of record, but Lowe does have an extensive wrestling background as he was a three-time NCAA Division II champion for the University of Findlay in Findlay, Ohio.
Lowe has the obvious advantage in that department, but he isn't known as a grind 'em out style of fighter in the cage. He loves to box his way to victory, but wrestling will play the typical "instinct" role in this fight. If Lowe gets tagged or in a dangerous position, there is no doubt where Lowe will go. Lopez, however, has moved to Xtreme Couture, and he's improved considerably in all areas of his game while in Las Vegas. Will it be enough to edge out Lowe at UFC 119?
Tough call, and this fight is basically a toss-up. My head says that Lowe's wrestling should be the difference, but it's hard to ignore six months worth of training at Xtreme Couture, especially against the wrestlers that Lopez can work with at the gym. I'll take Lopez in what I think will be a slight upset.
Welterweight: TJ Grant (15-4, 2-2 UFC) vs. Julio Paulino (17-3, 0-1 UFC): Interesting match-up here as Paulino's striking skills will face off against Grant's submission prowess in this lower level welterweight tilt. Paulino was previously outwrestled by Mike Pierce at UFC on Versus: Jones vs. Vera, so we really don't have an idea of what to expect from his striking against better competition at this point. Grant recently knocked out Kevin Burns at UFC 107, but dropped an unanimous decision at UFC 113 to Johny Hendricks. He has shown good grappling ability on the ground, even against accomplished wrestlers like Hendricks, but he does lack the striking skills to be a constant threat on the feet.
Paulino can be worn down on the ground, and that could be the key to Grant's success at UFC 119. Pierce's constant work rate kept Paulino on his back, neutralizing his striking and wearing him out considerably. If Grant can mimic the same type of gameplan, he could edge out Paulino by decision. While I don't think Grant has the powerful takedown ability that Pierce has shown in his UFC career, he does have enough skill to get battles to the ground and threaten opponents with his submission skills. That could be enough in this fight, and it's likely that his gameplan will run parallel to what Pierce did to Paulino at UFC on Versus I.
I'll take Grant in this match-up. While I think Paulino has the potential to punch Grant out of the UFC, I think Grant's submission ability on the ground is going to threaten Paulino enough to edge him out on points. Grant via decision.
Heavyweight: Mark Hunt (5-6, 0-0 UFC) vs. Sean McCorkle (9-0, 0-0 UFC): Mark Hunt is a lucky man. After Zuffa's buyout of PRIDE, Hunt's contract, like many others, sat on the shelf awaiting a new life in the UFC. Many of PRIDE's most successful fighters made their way to the United States while others didn't. Hunt was lumped into the latter category, despite only losing to two of the best heavyweights of the time in Fedor Emelianenko and Josh Barnett in recent years. Hunt's lack of motivation to keep himself in shape among other problems plagued his life after PRIDE's buyout, but he apparently got the memo when the UFC came calling to finally fulfill the contract he never finished.
He'll now face fellow newcomer Sean McCorkle at UFC 119, a fight that has been put together to fulfill Hunt's obligation while pitting new talent against him in an effort for the UFC to expand the division. Interestingly enough, Hunt has taken the opportunity seriously, showing up in videos out of American Top Team in the best shape of his life. Will that translate to success for Mark Hunt?
It's tough to say, but his five consecutive losses don't tell us much at all. Hunt has lost to solid competition, although some would say he should have destroyed some of those fighters due to his immense weight advantage and K-1 level kickboxing. Unfortunately, those critics probably didn't consider the horribly deficient skills he'd shown in those appearances.
But I'm going to buy into the hype here. While McCorkle has an obvious knack for punching guys out, so do most heavyweights. Hunt's strengths outweigh McCorkle's strengths in this fight, specifically on the feet. He may not be back at K-1 level status at this point in his career, but he can certainly put together solid combinations on the feet. He also happens to have a legendary chin that has withstood ridiculous amounts of damage. I'll take Hunt in his debut with the UFC, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him fail. Like any nostalgic PRIDE fan though, I'd love to see him succeed.