We knew going in that the UFC wasn't exactly pulling out all the stops for UFC 119. The main event featured a heavyweight matchup that didn't even pretend to be relevant or compelling. The co-main starred two light heavyweights that were barely top 10 material. But who could have predicted one of the worst shows in recent memory?
Besides the outstanding and competitive fight between Sean Sherk and Evan Dunham, UFC 119 was consistently disappointing. This was an MMA card where none of the fights really displayed what was great about the sport. For the most part the fights were predictable, stagnant, and boring standing bouts, putting an end to the myth that a fight that stays on the feet is bound to be entertaining.
Frank Mir and Mirko Cro Cop put on one of the worst displays in the history of MMA main events, certainly on cards of this level. For most of three rounds both exchanged the occasional blow, in between tepid Mir takedown attempts. Cro Cop has looked shell shocked since his KO loss to Gabriel Gonzaga four score and however many years ago. His UFC record was a house of cards. Is there a modern UFC fighter with a winning record who has it with worse fighters than Cro Cop? He was 4-3, with wins over the murderers row of Perosh, Sanchez, (an injured) Barry, and Al-Turk. That is the Mount Rushmore of awful heavyweights.
Despite this, because of his Pride legacy, he was tagged to be a late second replacement for an injured Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. He had no business competing with a top MMA heavyweight. Luckily the old Frank Mir showed up, so that wasn't a problem. While the announcers blamed Cro Cop throughout for the lack action, Mir also kept a wary distance, occasionally bulling forward for half hearted takedown attempts, never once bringing the action to the floor. A bizarre last second knockout from a glancing and awkward knee doesn't change the fact that the fight we witnessed featured 14 of the worst minutes ever captured on camera. Shameful KO. Shameful fight. Shameful event.
More after the break
The night started with such promise on SPIKE TV. Matt Mitrione and Joey Beltrane may have shown little discernible skill on their feet, but man did they try hard. Who knew that by the end of the night just trying hard would be an impossible standard? CB Dolloway also wowed with a submission over the cagey veteran Joe Doerksen. Things seemed to be going so well. And then Greg Jackson entered the building.
Fans expected fireworks between Melvin Guillard and Jeremy Stephens. That might have been too much to ask with Guillard now under Jackson's wing. Instead it was a dance off, with Stephens forgetting his dancing shoes at home. Melvin never threw more than two punches at any one time and can put a mark in the win column, but also a stake in the heart of Guillard fans who have come to anticipate wild action in his fights.
Chris Lytle and Matt Serra obviously shook hands backstage, Pancrase style, and agreed to shoot for the fight of the night bonus. Standing and banging was a terrible strategy for Serra after the first round, but he was unwilling or unable to adjust. As it became clear this "MMA" match was really a boxing fight with four ounce gloves, the remaining ten minutes became harder and harder to watch. I love MMA for the mix of techniques. The decision to focus only on boxing made it less interesting for me, not more. Beyond that, it was a bad boxing match as Serra clearly has no idea how to set up his wild punches and led with his head like a 170 pound Rocky Balboa.
There was nothing wrong with Rogerio Nogueira and Ryan Bader, but it was a fight that was simply there. Neither impressed and I was left with the hope that they really do put Bader in with Jon Jones. Coming in, I thought it was crazy to matchup two potential title holders so early in their careers. Coming out of the fight, I have little hope of Bader reaching that level.
The main event ended with Joe Rogan apologizing to the fans, Frank Mir's sad knockout, and Mirko Cro Cop asking "What happened?" What happened? Your career ended. And thankfully, so did a wretched show.