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Mir and Cro Cop Could Learn a Thing or Two from Lytle and Serra

Here are two things we know about Chris Lytle: 1) he's one of the only fighters in the UFC who will tell you straight-up that he isn't necessarily trying to earn a title shot, and 2) he's won more end of the night bonuses than any other fighter

After watching him in yet another slugfest against Matt Serra at UFC 119 on Saturday night, it's hard not to think that those two points are related.

It's not that Lytle is unambitious. It's more that he just happens to have different ambitions these days, and those ambitions lead him into the kind of fights where a regard for his own body seems to be the last thing on his mind. In Serra, he found an opponent equally as willing to trade pain for applause, and the result was bloody, messy, and wonderful.

That's why their fight might have been the perfect counterbalance to the night's most disappointing bout, a three-round staring contest between Frank Mir and Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic that came to a merciful end just a minute before the final horn.

We can't say for sure exactly what blend of styles and motivations made the main event scrap so yawn-inducing for the first fourteen minutes. Maybe that's just what happens when you get two guys who are both a little too concerned about their opponent's weapons.

But the fight felt at least partially like a contest between two men who were trying not to lose, and as a result neither emerged with any career momentum when it was over.

If you want to know what the UFC brass thought of the fight, you need look no further than the bonuses. Though Mir was the only fighter on the card to score a knockout, he didn't get the Knockout of the Night award. No one did. Since two Fight of the Night bonuses were handed out, we can't even chalk it up to a cost-saving measure. It was a very deliberate gesture, and one that probably got the point across better than any stern lectures ever could.

Serra and Lytle had their own moment like that when they met the first time in the finale of season four of "The Ultimate Fighter." They both wanted to win so bad – and feared losing so much – that they completely forgot why the fans were there. For Lytle, it was a career-altering event, and not just because he lost the split decision.

The Lytle who emerged from that snoozer was a completely different fighter, an all-or-nothing kind of guy who sometimes cost himself victories in his pursuit of thrilling fights. Instead of putting his submissions skills to work in a bout with Marcus Davis at UFC 93, for instance, he entered into a sort of gentleman's agreement to stand and bang all night. He lost the decision, but won another Fight of the Night award – his fourth.

With the win over Serra, Lytle now has won four straight, and all against top-notch welterweights. Yet you still don't hear him begging for a title shot. All he wants are good fights, the kinds fans will remember, and he does his part every time out to make sure that's what they get.

I realize not everyone can fight that way. Mir may have felt that he needed to win at all costs in order to preserve his hopes of one day strapping on a championship belt again, and it's difficult to tell him he's wrong to think that way. It's also difficult to tell him he should be more reckless against such a dangerous striker, especially when it's his face in the cage and not yours.

But it's a Pyrrhic victory when you win in a fashion that leaves both your boss and the fans feeling unsatisfied. Lytle and Serra both discovered that the hard way. Maybe Mir just needed to go through the same thing to find out that a loss isn't always the worst possible outcome, and a win isn't always worth the price you pay to get it.