UFC 119 was originally supposed to be headlined by a rematch between Frank Mir and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Unfortunately, Nogueira was forced out of the bout due to a knee injury which required surgery. In his place we'll be getting another legend from PRIDE Fighting Championships in Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic.
The fact that Mir has remained a force in the heavyweight division despite brutal losses to Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin while Mirko has been one step away from retirement for years has led to a bit of a lack of interest in the card by many fans. To add to what already seemed to many to be a mismatch Mirko suffered a very nasty eye poke injury during his last day of training. UFC president Dana White has tried to sound confident about Mirko's health in pointing out that there were no breaks in the x-ray and he was cleared by doctors but Mirko Filipovic's own words do cause some concern:
"What can I say. I'm leaving for Indianapolis. At the last training, in the last minute I got pretty bad eye injury. But I think it I will be alright."
"I am ready to take the risk but I can say you this, all the money in the world is not worth getting my eye injured but at this point there is no chance in hell to back up."
"It would be easier for me if I had time to do a full preparation cycle but at the end of the day thats my problem. I accepted the fight under these conditions. I was on vacation when they called me and I just couldn't say no to them. Not because of the money (which is pretty decent) but because of respect to the guys at UFC."
"If the fight goes to the third round it will be handicap for me. But you know, that's life and nothing is ideal."
Mirko's success against a dangerous striker in Pat Barry has to make Cro Cop fans feel a bit better given how slow and ineffective he had looked in the majority of his UFC fights. Still, Mir hits hard and is a big heavyweight. Mir is also much better on the ground. One can only assume that Mir's camp is drilling the idea of moving to the left and taking advantage of the injured eye.
Both men really need this win to remain relevant. Mir has already shown huge weakness against the big men in the division in Lesnar and Carwin while Cro Cop has never looked like the amazing force that he was in PRIDE in his time in the UFC. A loss here by Mirko could spell retirement while a loss by Mir would almost certainly drop him from the top 10 in the heavyweight division (he is currently in the #7 spot).
Prediction: I don't see much hope for Mirko here. He's already said that he is concerned about his cardio and he hasn't looked like a monster who is looking for the quick finish in his UFC days. Add in an eye injury and the fact that Mir is the better fighter right now and it becomes a pretty clear fight. I've got to roll with Frank Mir by TKO.