UFC 119: Mir vs. Cro Cop Punch Drunk Preview

Heavy.com preview for UFC 119
UFC 119: Mir vs. Cro Cop Preview

After a summer of outstanding events, the fall UFC schedule kicks off with the weakest card we’ve seen in some time. That’s not to say that UFC 119 doesn’t have some intriguing fights or isn’t worth the price of the pay-per-view, but in comparison to what we’ve had the last three months, this event is clearly the red-headed stepchild of the group.

It seems like every fall injuries take their toll on the UFC schedule. Last year saw numerous events ebb and flow with the injury report, and the pattern looks to be repeating itself again here. A rematch between Frank Mir and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was originally scheduled for the main event, but multiple ailments put “Big Nog” on the shelf, with Mirko Cro Cop stepping in for him on short-ish notice.

There is still one Nogueira on the card, however, as “Lil Nog” faces Ryan Bader in what is not only the most difficult test of the TUF 8 winner’s career, but the best pairing on paper heading into the event.

Mark Hunt (5-6-0) vs. Sean McCorkle (9-0-0)

The first fight of the nigh is usually one that no one is ever all that interested in, but things are different this time around.

After years of competing in Japan, Mark Hunt makes his way to the United States for his UFC debut. While he’s currently lost five straight bouts, the long-time Pride competitor has always fought well above his pay grade, challenging established stars like Fedor Emelianenko, Josh Barnett and Alistair Overeem along the way.

This time around he’ll face unbeaten Sean McCorkle, an Indianapolis native who has gotten the best of a bad bunch of regional fighters in his local area. Part of me feels like this poor guy is getting fed to the lions, except that Hunt is more like one of those old, domesticate lions stuck in the zoo who “acts lionish” when the people are watching.

T.J. Grant (15-4-0) vs. Julio Paulino (17-3-0)

Paulino has a solid looking record on the surface, but when you dig a little deeper, it exposes a faulty foundation. He’s been the big dog in Alaska for the last few years, but any time he’s stepped up in competition, he hasn’t had much success. Beating Terry Martin doesn’t count as a “step up in competition” either, in case you were wondering.

Across the cage you have a T.J. Grant, whose 2-2 record inside the Octagon doesn’t quite do him justice. He came out on the wrong side of a close decision to Johny Hendricks last time out, and dropped another on the cards to unbeaten Dong Hyun Kim. Sandwiched around the Kim contest were an upset decision win over Ryo Chonan in his debut and a first-round TKO of Kevin Bruns.

This is Paulino’s “thanks for helping us out” bout after stepping in on short notice to face Mike Pierce in March. Grant is a notch below the Brave Legion grinder, but still a more talented all-around competitor.

Steve Lopez (12-2-0) vs. Waylon Lowe (8-3-0)

Snack / Bathroom Break!

Honestly, no one is going to watch this fight outside of the friends and family members of the two competitors. Kudos to both for getting to the big stage, but enjoy it while it lasts because the loser is leaving town.

Lowe was felled by a Melvin Guillard knee in his debut, substituting for Thiago Tavares back in May. Personally, I can’t take Lowe seriously because he has a sun tattoo around his belly button.

As for his opponent, Lopez was getting beaten by Jim Miller before his shoulder decided it was time to quit and fell out of place this time last year.

If not for the Mark Hunt / Local Punching Bag match-up, this would be the opening bout of the evening. Why it’s batting after Grant / Paulino is beyond me.

Thiago Tavares (14-3-1) vs. Pat Audinwood (9-0-1)

If Tavares could stay healthy, he’d be an intriguing member of the lightweight division, but that seems like too difficult a task for the 25-year-old Brazilian.

This will be his first fight since January, having been forced out of a beating at the hands of Melvin Guillard back in May. Tavares has gone 4-3-1 under the UFC banner after entering the organization with an unbeaten 10-0 record. Unfortunately, he’s only been able to fight twice in the last two years, and needs to string together a couple quality appearance before he can even be considered in the deep 155-pound division.

You have no choice but to like Pat Audinwood. Anyone who goes by the nickname “Awesomely Awesome” is well, awesome. Stellar handle aside, Audinwood has been a decision-winner in five of his nine bouts, something that doesn’t necessarily translate well to the top level. If you can’t stop East Coast regional fighters with regularity, it be surprising to see you stop anyone in the UFC.

Of course, that is why fights aren’t contested on paper.

Matt Mitrione (2-0-0) vs. Joey Beltran (12-3-0)

These are probably the two least likely guys to combine for a 4-0 UFC record in the history of the company, and I mean that with all due respect to both fighters.

Mitrione was the comedic / melodramatic element to Season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter, and supposed to lose his bout on the Finale to Marcus Jones. One year later, he’s sent both Jones and Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson out of the sport entirely with back-to-back impressive stoppages. Odd as he may be, Mitrione is an athlete and has put in the work necessary to get to this stage.

Back in February, Beltran was given literally 48 hours notice as a replacement against the debuting Rolles Gracie after Mostapha Al-Turk had VISA problems. A huge underdog, Beltran battered the grossly overhyped Gracie, earning a stoppage in the second round. “The Mexicutioner” followed it up with a unanimous decision win over Tim Hague in May.

Kicking off the Prelims Live portion of the evening, these two emerging heavyweights will certainly bring the thunder and start the night off with a bang.

C.B. Dollaway (10-2-0) vs. Joe Doerkson (46-12-0)

Dollaway is the more recognizable name, but Doerkson has had the more impressive success as of late, entering the bout on a seven-fight winning streak that includes an impressive comeback win over Tom Lawlor at UFC 114 in May.

The Canadian journeyman has always done well when facing opponents who are in the same tax bracket as he is; most of his defeats have come against fighters who were considerably better than “El Dirte,” including Matt Hughes, Jeremy Horn and Nate Marquardt.

Dollaway, a TUF 7 alum, isn’t at that elite level, and while he’s looked solid in stringing together a pair of wins, there hasn’t been anything spectacular about his performances since coming into the UFC two-plus years ago. The highlight of Dollaway’s career is still the Peruvian necktie he dressed Jesse Taylor in back in July 2008. That should tell you something.

Melvin Guillard (25-8-2) vs. Jeremy Stephens (17-5-0)

I can’t wait until Bruce Buffer introduces Guillard with the ridiculously pumped up record that accompanies his profile on UFC.com. No way has Melvin Guillard won 43 fights or had more than 50, especially when you consider he’s 27-years-old, sat out almost a year due to a suspension, and this will be his fifth fight since said hiatus. Dude didn’t fight nine-times a year from the day he turned 18…

Now that that’s off my chest, “The Young Assassin” has cleaned up his act, found a home at Jackson’s in Albuquerque and looked outstanding since, earning a decision win over Ronnys Torres before blasting Waylon Lowe with a big knee last time out. Many observers have waited patiently for the day when Guillard’s maturity caught up to his talent level, and now we’re all seeing that the wait was worth it.

Stephens is still best known for his ginormous upper cut knockout of Rafael dos Anjos a couple years back, but more recently, the Victory MMA athlete put up back-to-back wins over Justin Buchholz and Sam Stout.

The win over Stout was an eye-opener, as Stephens combined his normal power with a more measured and calculating approach against the technically-superior Shawn Tompkins trainee, rocking the Canadian on a couple different occasions. Considering Stout has never been knocked out, you now know the kind of power “Lil Heathen” has in his hands.