Main Card:

Frank Mir vs Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic

Classic striker versus grappler match up……blah blah blah….Realistically, both these guys have been around long enough that they are both more well-rounded than their stereotypes. Frank Mir can strike now (maybe not as well as he thinks he can, but still pretty damn good), he rocked Cheick Kongo, he finished Old Big Nog and his footwork his pretty solid. His karate background means he has a decent kicking game which is complemented by his flexibility. Obviously his Jiu Jitsu is “top of the food chain” (to quote Joe Rogan). It’s not serious ADCC or Mundial medal winning Jiu Jitsu, but Mir is very creative on the ground and is effective in a ground scramble. Undoubtedly,  his biggest weakness is his wrestling and while Cro Cop is no Brock Lesnar in that department, he is undeniably one of the best anti-wrestlers ever to compete in the sport. This could make it very hard for Mir to take the fight where he needs to. If Mir chooses to pull guard he risks being in the bottom position against a man who has devastating ground and pound. Cro Cop is no slouch on the ground having studied BJJ for about 10 years and he has only been submitted by Noguiera. On the feet, where I think a lot of this fight will play out, Cro Cop still has the advantage. Mir is not Junior Dos Santos or Overeem and I don’t expect him to soundly outstrike Cro Cop or knock him out. Nonetheless it is still yet to be seen whether Cro Cop can corner anyone in the cage the way he could in the ring and I think Mir will be prepared for his vaunted left head kick by circling away. If Cro Cop wants to use his best tool he has throw right leg and body kicks at Frank Mir to stop his lateral movement. The truth about this fight like any recent Cro Cop fight is it comes down to whether he still has the mentality. Mir has probably annoyed him enough to take this seriously, but he needs to be brave to uncork fast kicks at the risk of being taken down. I could analyse this match up forever because I think in many ways it is a pick-em, but I’m tending towards Mir as there are too many doubts hanging over Cro Cop, especially with all the eye injury rumours lurking about and I think he has more ways to win. I’m not sure he can finish Cro Cop so I’m picking a decision.

Mir by not quite sure

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira versus Ryan “Darth” Bader

Another tough matchup to pick with the experienced veteran taking on the powerful up and comer. I think this fight essentially comes down to what lil Nog learnt in his fight with Jason Brilz. A lot of people though Brilz won that fight, which Nog officially took by split decision, though it could easily have been called a draw. Personally, I thought that under Pride rules, Nog won the fight. This is because he was able to sweep Brilz when taken down, attempt dangerous submissions and inflict more damage. Brilz, however, scored more takedowns, which seems to be a crucial judging criteria in America. This is where Bader has a distinct advantage being a decorated college wrestling convert. Nogueira’s takedown defense has often simply been the threat of his dangerous guard and he has far more experience and ability in BJJ than Bader will probably ever have. The X factor in Bader’s case is how powerful and strong he is. His base is very stable and even Nog will struggle to sweep him, if he can stay out of submissions then he has the judging advantage on the ground. On the feet I think Bader is technically outclassed. Nogueira won a bronze medal in amateur boxing at the Pan-American games and is a tricky southpaw with good counter boxing. In his fight with Shogun he just about outstruck him and managed to drop him to the canvas. Bader’s chin is at this point untested but his power is not. he has in spades, quite a few spades and he could conceivably rock most fighters is he lands a flush hook or right hand. To be honest, I think Nogueira’s movement and footwork could save him from this danger even though I expect Bader to keep it standing until it is clear Nogueira has the advantage there, which I believe he does. I’m taking Lil Nog for this one by experience and his ability neutralise most of Bader’s wrestling advantage with his dangerous ground game. If he can submit or knock out Bader (which I believe he can) it would be in his favour because Bader’s wrestling ability does not bode well for Nog if this goes to a decision.

Nogueira by 3rd round submission

Sean “The Muscle Shark” Sherk versus Evan Dunham

This may not be the most stacked card, but you can’t argue with the competitiveness of the match ups. Another vet vs up and comer match here. Sherk has been around forever and at 37 with 38 fights to Dunhams 28 years and 11 fights, he has a distinct experience advantage. It’s also worth noting he has only lost to greats and champions in GSP, Hughes, Penn and Edgar. His success has been largely down to his superpowered shot and his ability to work ground and pound from inside his opponents guard. Add to that his stifling top control and his guard passing ability and you have a dangerous opponent. He is very similar to Dunham’s opponent in his last victory, Tyson Griffin in height, build and fighting base, but he is not the same. He is more explosive in the wrestling department and is a more developed mixed martial artist. Sherk also beat Tyson Griffin in a boxing match, but that won’t happen against Dunham whose reach is greater than many of the opponents Sherk has struggled against in stand up. It is no secret that Sherk’s T-Rex arms make it a struggle for him to win a stand up battle against anyone not afflicted with the same curse. The crucial factors here are whether Dunham’s BJJ will be effective off his back and if he can keep it standing. Dunham truly dominated Griffin in the grappling department, taking his back at will, but as Sherk informed us in the countdown show, no one has ever taken his back. As a result I think Dunham will likely take this one by decision, utilising his long reach with straight punches and a limited spattering of kicks.

Dunham by decision (via stand up)

Matt “the Terror” Serra versus Chris “Lights Out” Lytle

Matt Serra has serious BJJ credentials (first American Black Belt, success in multiple grappling competitions) and should have an advantage on the ground in this fight. Lytle is a former pro boxer and should have the advantage on the feet. These facts may fool you however as both guys are very good in each other’s realm. Matt Serra has heavy hands but a limited kicking array. Lytle has heavy hands with a bigger kicking array and while he may have more technical striking he pretty much always forgoes using it in favour of a slobberknocker affair. While Lytle may share James Toney’s nickname, he does not share his ground pedigree and is a BJJ black belt, pulling off some beautiful submissions in recent fights. I can’t call this one, but I think Lytle likes the taste of the bonus checks he always collects and I fully expect this fight to play out in a much more entertaining fashion than their previous match with both fighters competing in all areas. I’m picking this for Fight of the Night (unless Stephens and Guillard get there first) and I think Serra’s power advantage and solid ground game may grant him a victory.

Serra by a thoroughly entertaining  decision

Melvin “the Young Assassin” Guillard versus Jeremy “Lil’ Heathen” Stephens

Someone via knockout. I can’t see this going to decision and if Cro Cop doesn’t unleash “left leg cemetery” on Mir then this wins KO of the Night. Guillard has started game planning after moving to Jackson’s MMA but that doesn’t disguise the fact that this fight is between two decent wrestlers with massive amounts of knockout power. I’m guessing Guillard finds Stephens’ chin first, but don’t bet on it. Literally, don’t bet on a fight like this because anything can happen in MMA and that chance is greatly increased when both guys have big power.

Melvin Guillard by KO in round 1