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UFC 119 winners and losers: Dunham impresses, Mir uninspiring

Even in defeat, Evan Dunham (R) may have stolen the show at UFC 119. (Photo courtesy of UFC.com)

For those of you who sat through the entire UFC 119 pay-per-view, you have my condolences.

The night began with a worrisome omen as the explosive and hard-hitting match-up between Melvin Guillard and Jeremy Stephens left just about everyone shocked and amazed. Not because of anything particularly exciting, of course, but because the seemingly obvious fight-of-the-night candidate turned into a snoozer.

Still, the event did have some bright spots – mainly the Sean Sherk–Evan Dunham and Chris Lytle–Matt Serra bouts – and the prelims kept the evening from turning into a complete waste. So without further ado, it’s time to pick the winners and losers from the UFC 119 main card. And in honor of the struggling economy, we’ll do it stock-market style.

Strong Buy:

Evan Dunham (11-1)

The crowd angrily voiced its displeasure following the bout between Sherk and Dunham, but only because it appeared that Dunham and his aggressive, look-for-the-finish style negated Sherk’s wrestling attack and earned him the decision win. Unfortunately, two of the three judges at ringside disagreed.

But even with the first blemish on his professional record, Dunham might’ve gained more than anyone else this past Saturday. He proved he can more than hold his own with a former UFC champion and, particularly in rounds two and three, implemented a smart game plan, putting Sherk in serious danger with his choke attempts and controlling the action on the feet with his reach advantage. Although Sherk picked up the much-needed win, Dunham established himself as a top-tier lightweight.

Buy:

Chris Lytle (40-17-4)

There was certainly no better way for Lytle to exercise the demons of his lackluster split decision loss to Matt Serra for the TUF 4 title than to brutalize Serra in front of his hometown fans. Showing off his professional boxing experience, Lytle picked Serra apart without much difficulty.

Although Lytle only improved his UFC record to 9-9, his toughness and tendency to put on fight-of-the-night performances could mean that Lytle will find himself in a marquee match with title implications sooner rather than later.

Buy (with caution):

Ryan Bader (12-0)

It wasn’t exciting and I didn’t expect it to be, but Bader did enough to pick up the biggest win of his career over former PRIDE contender Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (19-4). With his heavy hands and strong wrestling, Bader is still a potential force to be reckoned with at 205.

But at times he had serious trouble closing the distance and finding his striking range with the more experienced Nogueira, throwing two- or three-punch combinations that missed by a good 12 inches. Also, Nogueira stuffed several of Bader’s takedown attempts, and except for some nice punches in round one, Bader did little with his ground-and-pound attack.

All things considered, Bader, who didn’t have his first professional fight until 2007, picked up a win over a fighter who spent the better part of the last decade competing with the best in the sport. Not a bad night’s work.

Watch List:

Frank Mir (14-5)

There is no need to panic and sell your Mir stock to anyone willing to take it off of your hands. He still has plenty of tools at his disposal and could defeat almost any heavyweight on any given night.

However, this is not a good time to buy, either. Regardless of whether Mir bulks up and hits the weights or slims down to maximize his speed and movement, it’s hard to envision how he’ll ever get past UFC champion Brock Lesnar or Shane Carwin. And perhaps worst of all, with a chance to impress in a PPV main event, Mir laid an egg and put on a painfully dull performance against Mirko Cro Cop that wasn’t even salvaged by his late KO knee in the third round.

Sean Sherk (33-4-1)

If Dunham is as good as he’s looked so far in his UFC career, Sherk’s win, as dubious as it may have been on the scorecards, puts him right back into title contention. He can still takedown and stifle almost anyone at 155 and deliver some nasty elbows.

While his record still remains free of any submission losses, Dunham’s performance suggests that Sherk won’t ever be as dominant on the ground against the new, young crop of lightweights. Dunham’s aggressive style on the ground had Sherk in trouble several times, and the striking battle was pretty one-sided. Also, we’ve already seen Frankie Edgar and B.J. Penn defeat “The Muscle Shark,” so unless something drastic happens among the UFC lightweight hierarchy, Sherk will have a difficult time climbing back to the top of the mountain.

C.B. Dollaway (11-2)

I’ve been critical of Dollaway’s submission defense issues, which undercut the hype he had after season seven of The Ultimate Fighter. And even though I don’t foresee him becoming a legitimate title contender any time soon, Dollaway slapped on an impressive guillotine choke on Joe Doerksen after a hectic scramble on the ground.

Sell

Mirko Cro Cop (27-8-2)

Chances are that you already recognized Cro Cop is well past his prime, failing to defeat any of the UFC’s more established contenders. But last Saturday was particularly sad, as the MMA legend and former PRIDE open weight grand prix winner never really tried to pull the trigger against Mir, who was content to close the distance and push Cro Cop up against the cage looking for a takedown that never happened. Stepping into the main event on short notice and under less than desirable circumstances, Cro Cop could get one last shot in the UFC … if he still wants it. If that was his last fight, I’ll have fond memories of his battles with the likes of Josh Barnett, Fedor Emelianenko, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

UFC 119

Five main card fights, four decisions, and the most boring lead up to a third round knockout since Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Kevin Jordan at UFC 56. In the interest of full disclosure, I did make the mistake of sitting through an entire replay of DREAM 16 earlier in the day, which had more than its fair share of boring decisions and laughable mismatches — I probably wasn’t in a very patient mood. But sitting through the pay-per-view portion of UFC 119 reminded me of the days when I used to waste money on boxing PPV cards.

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