Most MMA fans knew that UFC 119 was a fairly week card and especially weak for a UFC event that fans were expected to spend $45 on. But there was a segment of the fanbase that insisted that it was always the cards that were "weak on paper" that delivered great action. There were certainly some fights on the UFC 119 card that delivered a good amount of action, the problem is that most of those fights featured either questionable decisions by the judges that nullified the action or the fights held very little long term meaning which made the action nice but ultimately pointless.
Before the pay-per-view went live Spike TV carried two fights that set a positive tone for the evening. Matt Mitrione and Joey Beltran threw power punches at each other for three rounds in an entertaining fashion. It was sloppy but it was a good warm-up for the crowd. Mitirione showed good growth and when he wasn't baited into sloppy punching exchanges his striking and footwork was actually solid and technical. The other preliminary fight that was seen on Spike saw C.B. Dollaway put on the most impressive performance of his career in submitting a man who was on a long winning streak in Joe Doerksen. Dollaway caught a guillotine, held position until he had a chance to lock it in deep and finish the fight off.
It was exactly the type of lead-in that the UFC wants from the Spike prelim broadcasts; an exciting slugfest and a quick finish. The second the pay-per-view went live is when the event took a turn for the worse.
The PPV lead-off fight was Melvin Guillard and Jeremy Stephens meeting in a showdown between two of the heaviest hitters at 155 pounds. Ever since the fight was announced fans have been told that this was a sure-fire fight of the night contender. Instead we got two men circling for the majority of the three rounds. To make things worse many fans scored the fight for Stephens but the judges gave the fight to Guillard by split decision. Personally, I had the bout 29-28 for Stephens but don't feel as though he was robbed. Neither man did enough over the three bad rounds to really claim that they clearly won the fight.
Sean Sherk clashed with Evan Dunham in what I feel was fight of the night. While in the heat of the moment and writing simultaneously for two sites I scored the bout close for Sherk but Dunham seems to be the clear winner in public opinion. Fight Metric also broke down the fight as a clear win for Dunham. Sherk was coming off an 18 month layoff against a very solid young fighter. Both men are toward the top end of the lightweight division and both men put on solid performances, that combination made this the best fight of the night. Sherk used his tremendous strength and takedowns to control the first round despite Dunham looking close to locking in a few guillotine chokes. In the second Sherk did more of the same early but late in the round Dunham started to open up with big strike flurries. Sherk countered inside on these exchanges but it was Dunham who was initiating and throwing the flashier strikes. The third saw Dunham dominate with big strikes. Unfortunately the focus on the fight won't be how good it was but instead on the judging controversy.
Chris Lytle put a beating on Matt Serra in a fight that made little sense. While both men are jiu-jitsu black belts Lytle has a much better striking background given his time as a pro boxer. Rather than take the fight to the ground where Serra probably has a slightly better game he chose to stay standing and let Lytle pick him apart using his reach. The only positive for Serra from the fight is that he proved how good his chin is in taking several huge flurries and staying on his feet.
In the co-main event Ryan Bader got by far the biggest win of his career over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Unfortunately, outside of an early takedown and flurry of heavy punches there was nothing too impressive on Bader's part. Nogueira occasionally would find his range and land a few straight punches, Bader would push forward and land a few punches but for the most part it was a lackluster fight that did nothing to build up either man. Bader moves from here into what looks to be a fight he can't win against Jon Jones.
Finally, the main event. Frank Mir and Mirko Filipovic fought for almost the entire three rounds with hardly any engagement beyond Mir pushing "Cro Cop" into the cage occasionally. Late in the third round Mir was able to find space to land a knee to the chin that put the Croatian out. The once feared Mirko is now a guy who looks rather disinterested in throwing strikes that may hurt someone. For all his big talk about how he was going to bring the fight to Cro Cop, Mir just looked like he wanted to make sure he didn't get hurt in a striking exchange. Frank talked after the fight about how it was a failure of his wrestling but it rarely looked like he was actually trying to get the fight to the ground, instead looking like he just wanted to put Mirko's back in the cage and contain him. At one point early in the third round the two men actually were talking to each other and laughing while the crowd booed them. It was a bad fight and both men should lose stock because of it.
Make no mistake, the UFC is the best promotion on the planet and they have had a very good year in 2010. UFC 116 and 117 were tremendous events that rank among the best I've ever seen but 118 and 119 have been less than ideal. 120 is a free show on Spike so it won't be held to the same standard but UFC 121 features Brock Lesnar against Cain Velasquez. It's hard to see that being a miss so one can only expect that the good days are about to return for Dana White and company.