Mild Question Mark Currently Surrounding Saturday’s UFC 119 Main Event at Conseco by wesreynolds

by Wes Reynolds

UFC President Dana White said earlier today that Mirko Cro Cop did get poked in the eye a few days ago during a sparring session and has blood in his eye. However, Cro Cop did contact UFC immediately after the injury and his ophthalmologist cleared him to fight.  They also took X-rays which were shown to the UFC’s doctors located in Las Vegas where the UFC is also headquartered. The doctors viewed the X-rays and said there was no sign of a structural injury.  White said that as soon as Cro Cop lands in Indianapolis, they are going to put him through a battery of tests, but he is cleared to fight as of now.

Remember that this card already had one main event change when Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was forced to pull out of the fight with Frank Mir due to a knee injury. If Mirko cannot fight, this would be a disaster for this show and force the UFC to scramble on very short notice to find a replacement. However, he is still scheduled to fight this Saturday night as of today.

The bigger story in UFC that broke today is the news that Chael Sonnen received a positive drug test from his August 8 fight with UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva.

According to a report today by Greg Savage of Sherdog.com, Chael Sonnen failed a drug test taken from his 8/8 fight with Anderson Silva in Oakland for the UFC middleweight title.

The report lists George Dodd, the new Executive Officer of the California State Athletic Commission, as the source, who mentioned it to Savage at last night’s Shane Mosley vs. Sergio Mora boxing match at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Sonnen was also told on Friday about the positive test result.

If this was a positive test for a recreational drug like marijuana or cocaine, the results would have come back a while ago. Therefore, this result would indicate a performance enhancing drug test, which in California brings a one year suspension.  This would also eliminate the planned Silva vs. Sonnen rematch for early next year, which, with the exception of heavyweight title fights involving Brock Lesnar, looked to be the biggest money-making match the company had on the table.

Chael Sonnen had won a ton of new fans from his superb performance in defeat against arguably the #1 pound-for-pound best mixed martial artist in the world. This does tremendous damage to his reputation and absolutely kills not only his own momentum, but the momentum for this potential megafight.

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CroCop replaces Nogueira in UFC 119 Main Event at Conseco by wesreynolds

by Wes Reynolds

UFC President Dana White confirmed earlier this afternoon that Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira has been forced the pull out of the September 25th main event at Conseco Fieldhouse with a hip injury. Nogueira had been scheduled to fight Frank Mir in a rematch of their December 2008 fight where Mir defeated Nogueira to win the interim UFC Heavyweight Championship. White also confirmed that Mir will now face Croatian striker Mirko “CroCop” Filipovic in the main event.

Filipovic is known as “CroCop”, which is short for  Croatian Cop. CroCop is a member of the Lučko Anti-Terrorist Unit, Croatia’s elite Police Special Forces tactical unit. He was also a member of Croatian Parliament from 2003 to 2007. CroCop comes into this fight with a 27-7-2 record and has won four of his last five fights including a rear naked choke submission win over young prospect Pat Barry this past June at UFC 115 in Vancouver, BC,  Canada.

CroCop is primarily known as a striker and kickboxer (23-7 record) as evident by his 20 wins by way of knockout. CroCop’s last fight was put together for Barry to get a showcase win over a legendary name in MMA, but in mixed martial arts, things don’t always go as planned. CroCop was seen by many observers as too old, washed up and way past his prime.

Originally and perhaps still scheduled to headline the UFC 122 November event in Oberhausen, Germany, CroCop will now face Mir in a battle of striker vs. grappler. Mir has improved his striking dramatically, but he makes his money on the ground as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. Eight of his thirteen victories are via submission. Mir would obviously be better served to take this fight to the ground and not stand on the feet with CroCop. CroCop, while a little older now, is still a dangerous striker with knockout power via both punching and kicking. After all, any fighter who has Duran Duran’s “Wild Boys” as his ring entrance music and can get away with it has to be a bad dude.

This is actually a better fight to headline this card due to the contrast in styles. Mir will undoubtedly be favored to win this fight according to the oddsmakers, but a simulated fight from the video game UFC Undisputed 2010 between the two combatants produces a different result.

We all find out what the result will be at UFC 119 on September 25th at Conseco Fieldhouse.



UFC 119 Card Taking Shape for September Date at Conseco by wesreynolds

by Wes Reynolds

Arguably the fastest-growing sport brand in the world will make its debut on September 25th at Conseco Fieldhouse when UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) comes to the Circle City. Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA, once withered on the vine as recently as the late 1990’s, but now is making dramatic strides into both the sports and pop culture mainstream.

The September card will be headlined by a rematch of two former UFC Heavyweight Champions and SPIKE TV’s The Ultimate Fighter season eight coaches Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira and Frank Mir. The co-headliner will be a light heavyweight (205 lb) battle between Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, the younger brother of “Minotauro”, battles Ryan Bader, the season eight  winner of the SPIKE TV reality show who was coincidentally enough coached by the older brother of the man who will be his opponent.

The main event is a rematch of a December 2008 fight in which Mir won by a TKO over Big Nog, the elder of the Nogueira brothers. This fight was widely recognized as the worst performance of Big Nog’s career. He came into the fight still recovering from a staph infection and looked half dead in the octagon that night.  Mir won an Interim Heavyweight Championship that night but would go on to lose the title unification bout with Brock Lesnar in July of last year. Mir had defeated Lesnar in the current heavyweight champion’s first UFC fight back in February 2008. Mir clearly has his eye on a third match with Lesnar in the future which would do huge business on pay-per-view, as do all of Lesnar’s fights. Meanwhile, Nogueira, like Mir, needs a win here to stay relevant in the UFC Heavyweight Title picture. Big Nog, also like Mir, comes into this fight off a devastating loss (Nogueira lost by KO in the 1st Round to current #1 title contender Cain Velasquez this past February and Mir lost via TKO to Shane Carwin one month later). This is truly a “crossroads” fight for both fighters.

In the co-main fight, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, or Little Nog, battles Ryan Bader. Nogueira, the Brazilian former Bronze Medal-winning amateur boxer at the 2007 Pan American Games, and Bader, a former two-time All-American wrestler at Arizona State, should be a highly entertaining fight between two fighters looking for one more win to place them in the UFC Light Heavyweight title chase.

The fight of the greatest local interest will also be a rematch of season four finalists Chris “Lights Out” Lytle (pictured left) and Matt “The Terror” Serra (pictured right). Lytle, a firefighter with the Indianapolis Fire Department Station 1 and graduate of Southport High School and Indiana University, will be looking to avenge his November 2006 close decision loss in The Ultimate Fighter season four final to the New Yorker Serra. Both men took very different paths in their respective MMA careers after that fight. Lytle has maintained his status as a highly respectable and entertaining gatekeeper in the 170 lb (Welterweight) division while Serra pulled off arguably the greatest upset in UFC history by defeating Canadian Georges St. Pierre (arguably the #1 or #2 pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world) in April of 2007 to win the UFC Welterweight Championship. Serra would subsequently lose the belt a year later in a rematch with the highly-gifted and well-rounded St.  Pierre. Now both men are in their mid-30’s and in the latter stages of their careers. This is a huge fight for Lytle since he felt the close decision loss to Serra took away his fighting spirit. After the loss, Lytle changed his style from being a more technical fighter to a more go-for-broke style. Lytle is also going to have the pressure of being relied upon to be the local drawing power on this card. This is a well-booked fight with Lytle being billed as the local “babyface”, or good guy, and Serra being presented as the cocky, yet affable and charismatic “heel”, or bad guy. This is MMA’s version of the “Hicks versus the Knicks”.

The pay-per-view card ($44.95 and $54.95 on HD) will be rounded out with two Lightweight (155 lb) bouts consisting of former UFC Lightweight Champion Sean “The Muscle Shark” Sherk facing off with young, undefeated prospect Evan Dunham and Melvin Guillard taking on Jeremy Stephens in a battle that will likely be a slugfest between two of the better athletes in the 155-lb division. Former Purdue University defensive tackle Matt Mitrione will also be on the preliminary card taking on young, Mexican-American heavyweight Joey Beltran, which will be one of two fights of the eleven-fight card that will be televised live on SPIKE TV.

As a long-time fan of UFC and MMA in general, I am excited for it to finally come to my hometown. However, the card on paper looks slightly underwhelming. The original idea for this show was to headline with  two Light Heavyweight matchups between Lyoto Machida vs. Quinton Jackson and Rogerio Nogueira vs. Rashad Evans, but both Jackson and Evans turned down the fights. If these were the two main event fights on this card, there is no doubt that the event would have drawn a higher pay-per-view buyrate and tickets would likely sell at a more brisk pace. Jackson (pictured right), more commonly known as Rampage, is one of the UFC’s biggest stars, is still promoting his starring role as B.A. Baracus in the summer hit movie The A-Team. Jackson and the aforementioned Evans headlined a May UFC event in Las Vegas in which Jackson was defeated by unanimous decision. This event drew a little over 1 million pay-per-view buys, which was the largest ever draw for a UFC event that was headlined by a non-title fight. Evans did not accept his fight with Little Nog since he is guaranteed a title shot against current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, who is sidelined until March 2011 with a knee injury, and did not want to jeopardize that match.

One of the beautiful elements of MMA is the unpredictability of the fights. A fighter could be losing easily and then turn around a win the fight with one punch. The sport is a mixture of boxing and striking, wrestling, grappling and martial arts so there are many ways to win and lose a fight. The public clamoring and demand for more MMA, either of the free television or pay-per-view variety, has led to more shows being held. Unfortunately for Indianapolis, this means that less top-drawing fighters are available to fight on the card. However, the unpredictability of the fights can often lead to a card being much better than originally forecasted to be on paper.

UFC has liberally taken from the Pete Rozelle philosophy in how he marketed the NFL as commissioner during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Individual talents are allowed to thrive and become stars, but the brand and the overall sport is the main star. The mainstream media has caught on and frequently discusses in various forms of media how UFC and MMA in general are kicking boxing’s ass. Some of the media figures embrace it, particularly the younger ones, but others in the establishment press are highly critical of it. Tony Kornheiser of ESPN once said, “This sport is repulsive.”

Whether you love or hate MMA, it has exposed that most of our mainstream sports media writers and personalities completely live in a bubble and are completely behind the curve in what is truly happening in the overall sports landscape. These are the same people that were so slow to realize in the late 1990’s that “wow, this NASCAR thing is really popular.” MMA is here to stay and it is only getting more popular because it is acquiring new fans from the younger generation and also taking away fans of boxing and professional wrestling who feel disenfranchised by the current state of those respective products. While I may be underwhelmed by the card’s lineup, I am excited to see the show and how the fans here in Indianapolis embrace it. So there really is only one thing left to say. LET’S GET IT ON!

Tickets for UFC 119: MIR vs. NOGUEIRA 2 will go on sale Saturday, July 24 at 10am ET and will be priced at $300, $200, $125, $90, $70 and $40. Fans can purchase tickets at ConsecoFieldhouse.com, the Conseco Fieldhouse Box Office or all Ticketmaster outlets.