Commentary

Not every fight can be a barn burner

Updated: September 27, 2010, 11:35 AM ET
By Jason Langendorf | ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- You never really know what you're going to get out of an MMA event, but the 15,811 fans who filed into Conseco Fieldhouse for UFC 119 on Saturday seemed to know exactly what they wanted. So did they get it?

Yes and no. Sorta. Maybe.

It was that kind of night for just about everyone involved, including onetime heavyweight champion Frank Mir, who headlined the main event and ultimately walked away a winner. Kind of.

Mir originally had been scheduled to fight Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in the main event, but Big Nog pulled out of the fight and was replaced by Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic. As a result, the show lost some symmetry -- Nogueira's brother, Antonio Rogerio, fought Ryan Bader in the co-main event -- and no small amount of sizzle.

Filipovic, once considered to be one of the scarier dudes in the sport, no longer is much of a threat to top UFC heavyweights. And because he took the fight on several weeks' notice and recently suffered an eye injury, he likely wasn't even operating at current optimal levels. It showed against Mir, as the two men mostly slow-danced for the better part of three rounds, with Mir being the closest thing to an aggressor in the bout.

But at 4 minutes, 5 seconds into the third round, with expectations and pulses significantly lowered, Mir caught Filipovic lunging low with a left hand. Mir sidestepped, pawed the back of Cro Cop's head and timed up a right knee that landed flush on the chin, instantly dropping the former Pride sensation -- and at least partially redeeming what otherwise would have been a waste of a fight.

[+] EnlargeMir
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comFrank Mir would rather win ugly than not win at all.

Still, it was hardly the show that Mir -- who still is trying to hang around on the fringes of the heavyweight title picture -- wanted to put on.

"If it's a decision, I'll make the statement that a s----- win is better than a s----- loss," Mir said. "Other than that, I was really p---ed off with my performance -- not happy at all."

And he wasn't the only one. There were boos and catcalls -- and even stretches of virtual silence -- that hung in the air through much of the fight, and they weren't isolated to the main event. UFC president Dana White conceded that they were deserved in the case of the Mir-Cro Cop bout, but he defended the rest of the card.

"I think sometimes when you go into some of these markets, some people expect these guys to run directly into each other, start banging and don't stop until the bell rings," White said.

"Sometimes I don't know what people do expect. You've seen this on TV before. These guys don't just freight-train into each other. Sometimes you get fights that are crazy like that, and sometimes you don't."

Trouble was, it wasn't just that several of Saturday's fights didn't deliver as expected. It was that certain fights didn't live up to their hype, most notably Bader-Nogueira and Melvin Guillard-Jeremy Stephens.

"The Nogueira-Bader fight, what you have to understand is that these are two of the top guys in the world going in there and trying to win with a lot on the line," White said. "There's a lot of strategy that goes into that."

[+] EnlargeGuillard
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comMelvin Guillard, right, decided to ditch his usual, aggressive style for a more conservative approach.

Even forgiving that this was Bader's first big test and that the fight may have been a difficult style matchup for Nog, the action -- such as it was -- disappointed. For his part, Guillard -- who has a loose-cannon reputation and a penchant for staging exciting fights -- felt the need to apologize after his all-defense win over Stephens.

But let's face it: Not every event, and certainly not every fight, can be a knock-down, drag-out extravaganza. And memo to Indianapolis: You still got two hellacious fights (and wins) from hometown boys Chris Lytle and Matt Mitrione. Throw in a side of controversy -- hot prospect Evan Dunham gave Sean Sherk everything he could handle and seemingly earned a decision before being saddled with his first loss -- and no one should have left the Fieldhouse feeling gypped of his entertainment dollar.

And although it was far from a perfect performance, even Mir should take solace in the fact that he finished the event in spectacular fashion and remained in the discussion at the top of the UFC's heavyweight division.

"Outside of the negative aspects, without a single takedown, I was able to stand up for two-and-a-half rounds with Mirko and win with a knockout," Mir said. "I guess that's a bonus. That's the only thing I can think of to draw from it."

Sorry, folks, but they can't all be barn burners. Sometimes effective and pretty don't walk hand in hand.

Jason Langendorf is an editor for ESPN.com.

Jason Langendorf is the boxing editor for ESPN.com.