Former heavyweight champion Frank Mir made a largely forgettable fight memorable with one swift strike.
Mir knocked out 2006 Pride Fighting Championships open weight grand prix winner Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic with a third-round knee in the UFC 119 "Mir vs. Cro Cop" headliner on Saturday at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Filipovic fell prey with just 58 seconds remaining in the match.
"It looked kind of ugly to be honest," Mir said, "but I guess it's better to pull of an ugly win than an ugly loss."
The two men spent much of their encounter trading sporadic punches and neutralizing one another in the clinch along the cage. The crowd showered them with disapproval, their matchup hampered by a lack of aggression. Then, in the final minute, Mir caught Cro Cop leaning in with a left hand and pulled his head into the fight-ending knee strike. A pair of follow-up punches finished off the Croatian on the ground, as referee Herb Dean moved in on his behalf.
The defeat snapped a two-fight winning streak for Filipovic, whose participation in the main event was put in jeopardy by an eye injury suffered during training. Once one of the world's most feared heavyweights, the 36-year-old now stands at a mediocre 4-4 inside the UFC.
"My strategy was to take him down, but his takedown defense is good," said Mir, who never got Filipovic to the ground. "I was trying to do well. Mirko's dangerous."
Bader stays unbeaten, tops Nogueira
In the co-main event, undefeated "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 8 winner Ryan Bader scored with takedowns in all three rounds and notched a unanimous decision against world-ranked Pride Fighting Championships veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. All three judges sided with Bader by matching 30-27 counts.
"I didn't want to engage too much," Bader said. "The good thing about being a wrestler is keeping them guessing and dictating where the fight goes."
Bader zoomed out to a quick lead as he took down Nogueira with a little less than three minutes remaining in the first round and belted him with heavy ground-and-pound. Two standing-to-ground punches bounced Nogueira off the canvas. A three-time Pac-10 Conference champion and two-time All-American wrestler at Arizona State, Bader used his considerable wrestling chops to neutralize Nogueira's technical boxing advantage for long stretches in the fight.
Still, Nogueira had his moments. A knee to the body took the steam out of Bader in Round 2, and he scored successfully on his feet throughout the third. However, Bader delivered two more takedowns in Round 3, moved to 5-0 inside the Octagon and set up a potential showdown with light heavyweight wunderkind Jon Jones. The defeat snapped Nogueira's seven-fight winning streak.
Lytle avenges Serra defeat
In a showdown that took place entirely on the feet, Chris Lytle outboxed and outclassed Matt Serra en route to a unanimous decision, avenging his 2006 defeat to the former UFC welterweight champion. All three judges scored it 30-27.
"He went for it the whole time," said Lytle, who evened his record at 9-9 inside the Octagon. "I can definitely respect the guy."
The two stood and traded for the duration and neither threw a kick until Serra fired one at the legs with 17 seconds remaining in the second round. By then, he had taken a beating, as Lytle scored with heavy power punches, the right uppercut chief among them. He had Serra in trouble on more than one occasion but could not finish the notoriously tough East Meadow, N.Y., native.
"I wanted to do or die," said Serra, who left the cage with cuts and abrasions near his left eye. "I knew if I stopped him it would say something. It wasn't my night. Chris is a stud. He deserves all the success."
Sherk edges Dunham in controversial decision
Former UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk, in his first appearance in more than a year, took a controversial split decision from world ranked and previously unbeaten Evan Dunham. All three judges scored it 29-28, two of them for Sherk.
Sherk looked like his old self in the first round, as he worked through a pair of tight guillotine choke attempts, took down Dunham and opened a wicked lateral gash near his right eye with an elbow from half guard. Bleeding profusely, Dunham survived Round 1 and switched gears as the battle deepened.
"The chokes were very tight," Sherk said. "I've got a big neck, fortunately. I'm very hard to choke."
Dunham answered in the second and third rounds, as he managed to stay upright. He wobbled the former titleholder with a head kick less than 20 seconds into Round 3, rose immediately after a Sherk takedown and scored with powerful striking combinations: knees, punches and kicks. By the end of the fight, the tide had clearly turned, but Sherk walked away with a decision.
"I thought it could go either way, to be honest with you," said Sherk, a 37-year-old Minnesota Martial Arts Academy product who improved to 7-4 inside the Octagon.
Dunham tasted defeat for the first time in 12 professional appearances, though the crowd, vocal with its displeasure, believed he deserved a better fate.
"It is what it is," Dunham said. "You never can tell what the judges are thinking. I do want to win -- always -- but I was just having fun."
Guillard takes split decision
Overwhelming speed trumped power as Melvin Guillard defeated Jeremy Stephens by split decision in a featured lightweight matchup. Two of the three cage-side judges sided with Guillard by 29-28 and 30-27 counts. A third dissented, scoring it 29-28 for Stephens.
Stephens planted an off-balance Guillard on his backside with a counter right hand during their opening exchange but spent much of the remainder of the fight swinging and kicking at air. Guillard fought a smart tactical match, as he bounced in and out of the pocket, scored effectively with punching combinations and kept Stephens at bay with a steady diet of front kicks to the body and stiff jabs to the face.
Visibly frustrated, Stephens made a run at it late, as the 24-year-old Des Moines, Iowa, native attacked Guillard with kicks to the legs and punches to the body. Though Guillard's third-round output was limited to a few exchanges and a nice jumping knee to the head, he had done enough to swing the fight in his favor.
Brian Knapp is a contributor to Sherdog.com.