Almost 8 years to the day has passed since “that kick” landed and dashed hopes of having two legends of the sport collide for the UFC heavyweight title.
The year was 2007, Mirko Filipovic aka ‘Cro Cop’ entered the UFC already a legend and icon of the sport. He had just a few months previously beaten Josh Barnett and Wanderlei Silva in one night to capture the 2006 Pride Open-Weight Grand Prix.
The years previous to that he had beaten the likes of Sakuraba, ‘Minowaman’, Mark Coleman, and Kevin Randleman, to name just a few. And before entering the UFC he had managed to wrack up an impressive 17 first-round finishes, 8 of which were in the first two minutes and 9 as a direct result of his trademark kicks.
Yes, Cro Cop was the real deal and he was coming to take over the UFC.
He made his debut in early 2007 and dispatched of Eddie Sanchez, who was undefeated at the time, with a first round TKO stoppage. It was obvious that the UFC wanted Cro Cop to get a ‘W’ and get settled inside the Octagon first before taking on the higher level guys. His win over Sanchez was dominant, striking was clinical and every time he threw a kick that fans cheered.
The month after this fight Randy Couture (who was actually commentating on Cro Cop’s debut) came out of retirement and defeated Tim Sylvia to become the UFC heavyweight champ once more. The UFC had put it together that the winner of Sylvia vs. Couture would face the winner of Cro Cop vs. Gonzaga, which was taking place the month following.
No one wanted to see Gonzaga vs. Couture, everyone wanted to see Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ fight Randy Couture for the title. But things don’t always work out how you want them too and on that faithful night of April 21st in Manchester, England Gonzaga delivered possibly the most devastating KO in UFC and MMA history. It was bittersweet, we saw one of the shockingly greatest KO’s ever but it came at the expense of seeing a Cro Cop vs. Couture dream-fight diminish right before our eyes.
Up until that point only one person had managed to stop Cro Cop with strikes and that was Kevin Randleman. But just over six months later the Croatian sensation exacted his revenge and finished Randleman with a guillotine in their rematch.
Cro Cop has a thing with rematches. Mike Bohn of MMA Junkie said that he is 5-0 in rematches and this weekend he heads into the sixth rematch of his career. Just like Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, he has been given the chance to go back and right the wrongs of his fighting career and the fight against Gonzaga is arguably the biggest defeat of his career.
After that fight he has only managed to go and underwhelming 8-6 in MMA and is overall 4-6 in the UFC. Who knows what would’ve happened had he avoided Gonzaga’s big swinging tree trunk of a leg, maybe he could have beaten Couture and went on to defeat Brock Lesnar, both fighters not known for their striking. We will never know but at least he can go back and be given the chance to right this wrong.
Mirko Cro Cop said the following to say at the pre-fight press conference:
“That is why I am here. To try get my revenge and, as I said before, even if I don’t succeed I will know that I tried and for me that is enough.”