In the main event of the evening at UFC 119, PRIDE 2006 Open Weight Grand Prix champion Mirko Filipovic (28-7-2-1, 4-3 UFC) will aim to once again prove that he still has what it takes to compete at the highest levels in the sport as he battles former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir (13-5, 11-5 UFC) in a surprisingly interesting clash of styles. The bout was originally a rematch of Frank Mir and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's UFC 92 battle, but Nogueira was forced to withdraw due to a knee injury he sustained during training. Nogueira's loss is Cro Cop's opportunity to prove to the world that he still has some gas left in the tank at this late point in his career, but Frank Mir should prove to be a very dangerous opponent as he is not only one of the best grapplers in the division -- but he's likely extra motivated to impress due to his stunning loss to Shane Carwin at UFC 111.
I won't beat around the bush in breaking down how this fight will likely go down. It's obvious that this bout has the makings of a classic striker vs. grappler showdown with the added intrigue that Cro Cop has looked absolutely awful in the stand-up department in comparison to his days in PRIDE. Mir has shown flashes of solid striking ability in the past, most notably against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and that adds a little interest to this fight as well.
But what truly grabs attention for most fans is the fact that both Mir and Cro Cop have had disappointing performances in recent memory. Mir was dominated by Shane Carwin in his last appearance while Cro Cop was nearly knocked out by Pat Barry, but ultimately won the fight. Cro Cop, however, has only won bouts against far lesser skilled opponents than himself, and he has yet to defeat an upper-tier talent in the UFC heavyweight division.
We know exactly what Cro Cop's gameplan is going to be, so all of the questions revolve around what Frank Mir plans to do in this fight. He doesn't have a great takedown game at all, and his striking only looked phenomenal when he battled Nogueira, who ate punch after punch like he was in a standing coma. Cro Cop, while having limited success against the better competition in the division, remains a solid striker with good power and defense. He's definitely shown that his skills have declined a bit, but Mir isn't exactly a skilled takedown artist who will put Cro Cop on his back with ease.
Will Mir actually stand with Cro Cop? It's a possibility. After all, Cro Cop's kicking hasn't been a threat since he came to the UFC, mainly due to the fact that he's thrown any strategy out the door to setting up his head kicks with body and leg kicks. Punches are what Mir will need to look out for, and while Cro Cop can certainly string together a powerful jab, straight punch combination -- he's much more open for the counter these days.
On the ground, it's a no brainer. Mir will use his size and strength to submit Cro Cop, and it may pay dividends for Mir to play possum to get Cro Cop into his world.
It's a tough fight to call. I'd love to bask in the nostalgia of PRIDE on Saturday night with a Mirko "Cro Cop" victory, but Cro Cop has been far too disappointing in the past. Most of the evening is filled with tirades about how he must have a mental blockage because he "does nothing but kicks for your head!". No set-up, and he's obviously ignoring any coaching instructions. If he isn't, he should probably fire his entire team and go fishing.
I'm going with my heart here though and picking Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic to win via TKO on Saturday night. Why? Beats the hell out of me. I have about as much faith in Cro Cop as I do faith that the Chicago Cubs will win a World Series during my lifetime. But he does have the striking to win here, and watching Mir shoot for takedowns makes me think he'll pay the price.