Have we seen the last of Cro Cop in MMA?
Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic is a living fighting legend, of that there is no doubt. But 99% of the clips from his fights on the countdown show to UFC 128 were from his days in Pride - not surprising, since he's been everything but devastating in the UFC.
Filipovic has gone 4-4 since his debut back in February of 2007, and he hasn't looked anything like his deadly former Pride self. My first UFC live experience was at UFC 70, and I was very excited about seeing an icon like Cro Cop. The crowd was, too! I was astonished when Gabriel Gonzaga knocked Cro Cop out with his own favorite weapon: the head-kick. The crowd was, too! Of all the possible outcomes, this was the most improbable - short of Cro Cop submitting the BJJ black belt with something or other, people would have started fainting around me!
In Filipovic's last two fights, he has been knocked out cold late in the third round. The bout against Frank Mir at UFC 119 was very dull and uneventful until that knee landed, and many questioned Mirko's ability and desire to continue on this highest of levels afterwards. The Cro Cop we saw last Saturday was a glimpse of what he used to do, which was bloodying his opponent before beating him senseless. Schaub most likely got his nose broken or at the least disfigured by a Croatian short elbow, and didn't exactly look like a winner at the post-fight press conference, but that's what he was. We will hear a lot more from him in the future, be sure about that!
Arguments have been made as to whether Cro Cop is too small for a heavyweight nowadays. Only five or six years ago, "smaller" guys like Filipovic, Fedor Emilianenko and Randy Couture could dominate the heavyweight division, but now it seems an impossibility.
Today's top heavyweights are considerably larger than they were back then. Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin both have to cut weight to get down to the heavyweight limit of 265 lbs. (121 kg), and UFC champ Cain Velasquez and Brendan Schaub are both about 20 lbs. heavier than Mirko. The three fighters actually walk around at the same weight as many light heavyweights.
Dropping a weight class means having to deal with the lighter fighters' increased speed and quickness, which makes this move work against Cro Cop: he is 36 years old and has been fighting professionally for fifteen years (being a kickboxer for five before turning to MMA). Perhaps the Russian Fedor has the inside track himself, as he is facing similar problems. He said this in an interview last year regarding the current status of the former Croatian anti-terrorist police squad member:
"There is something that broke in him and he is not the same fighter as he was before. This is evident on his style of fighting and on his look during the fight. I don't know how to explain... You know when a person goes into the ring to win, or at least not to lose. I mean, when a fighter is ready and goes to fight then it can be seen by his look. Regardless of whether he gets hit or not, he goes forward and regardless of whether he wins or loses, he wants to go forward, and it is clear from his burning eyes."
The high-point of Cro Cop’s illustrious career was the Pride Open Weight Grand Prix in 2006, when he first head-kicked Wanderlei Silva into oblivion and then later the same night finished Josh Barnett to win the Grand Prix. He later revealed that had he not won the tournament, it would have been his last fight. That time might be now, five years later. A guy who once said (in reference to being hit with his powerful legs): "Right leg hospital, left leg cemetery," will always have a special place in MMA history. Perhaps it's time to put both legs up on the bed and rest, ‘cause it's been a long and entertaining ride.
** Oscar Dronjak's (HammerFall) MMA Hammer of Justice, Part 1 by clicking here.
** Oscar Dronjak's (HammerFall) MMA Hammer of Justice, Part 2 by clicking here.
** Oscar Dronjak's (HammerFall) MMA Hammer of Justice, Part 3 by clicking here.
** Oscar Dronjak's (HammerFall) MMA Hammer of Justice, Part 4 by clicking here.
** Oscar Dronjak's (HammerFall) MMA Hammer of Justice, Part 5 by clicking here.
** Oscar Dronjak's (HammerFall) MMA Hammer of Justice, Part 6 by clicking here.
** Oscar Dronjak's (HammerFall) MMA Hammer of Justice, Part 7 by clicking here.
** HammerFall's new album, Infected, is out June 7th, 2011 on Nuclear Blast Records.