Third time lucky is a very fitting phrase for the UFC’s latest Heavyweight addition, Mirko Filipovic (better known as Cro Cop). With strong indications that rival promotion Bellator had been sniffing around the Croatian in a bid to add him to their 265lbs division, Uncle Dana swooped in and signed Cro-Cop on 20th January 2015 (as reported by John Joe O’Regan via Bloody Elbow). So with his impending return what better to do than filter through the UFC’s Heavyweight roster and pick five potential opponents to welcome back Cro Cop.
Matt Mitrione (9-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC)
Well this matchup would be very intriguing in my eyes and comes at the right time in both guys careers. Mitrione went through a bad patch late 2011/early 2012 which saw him go 1-3, but “Meathead” remerged as a contender in 2014 with three KO wins over Shawn Jordan, Derrick Lewis and Gabriel Gonzaga. Mitrione has an extremely high percent of knockout wins (89%) and a matchup with Cro Cop would certainly test his stand up skills. I think style wise it would be a very competitive and entertaining bout and a real test for both. Cro Cop’s chin was called into question in his last UFC stint and Mitrione would be keen to explore how that has held up, likewise Mitrione has been questioned about his ability to take a shot and with Cro Cop’s extensive range of kicks those questions could certainly be answered.
Quinton Jackson (35-11 MMA, 7-5 UFC)
Bear with me on this one. Could you imagine the hype this one would cause at a Catchweight bout? Arguably it’s a fight that a few years ago would have been a great PPV bout but I still think the hardcore amongst us would get excited for this fight. Two stand up guys both looking for a late career resurgence. I would definitely sign up for this fight. I get we may need to wait a while for this one to come to fruition given that Rampage is tied up with Maldonado but we are still unsure as to when Cro Cop will make his return. For me this would be a true fan favourite fight and whilst we may not get to see the most technical of mixed martial arts bouts, we would definitely be in for a gum-shield biting, haymaker throwing 15 minutes.
Roy Nelson (20-9 MMA, 7-6 UFC)
Big Country would be another guy who would play to the game plan of Cro Cop and just stand and slug it out willingly with the Croatian. Nelson has slumped in recent performances and is 1-3 in his last four bouts with losses to Hunt, Cormier and Miocic knocking him down the 265lbs pecking order. A big win over Cro Cop would certainly help him get back into the mix, given the size of the division. In my opinion it would be a very winnable fight for Nelson who would look to use his power and size to grind Cro Cop up against the cage and look to unleash the big right hand he is famed for. Cro Cop would stand a chance if he was able to use his range and kicks to keep Nelson at bay but I would definitely pick Nelson for the victory in this one.
Shawn Jordan (17-6 MMA, 5-3 UFC)
Jordan has looked very impressive in his last two bouts, albeit the level of opponents has arguably been of a lower skill set to those who hold wins over him in the UFC. Jordan has fallen to Mitrione, Gonzaga and Kongo during his UFC stint which may restrict the UFC from throwing him in to the Octagon with a Heavyweight legend like Cro Cop. But what better way to learn and test himself? Jordan is very athletic for his size and has 13 of his 17 wins by TKO/KO so could definitely pose some problems for Cro Cop. Jordan has been knocked out four times in his six losses so Cro Cop would certainly have the opportunity to test Jordan’s durability and chin if these two ever fight.
Mark Hunt (10-9-1 MMA, 5-3-1 UFC)
This one may be a bit left field but why the hell not? Who doesn’t love seeing Mark Hunt fight? He looked spectacular in his demolition of Roy Nelson in Japan but not so good in his loss to Fabricio Werdum. Hunt is open to fight anyone/anywhere/anytime and doesn’t really seem to care too much about how he is ranked and what he needs to do to get to the gold. So why not throw him in there with Cro Cop and see how it plays out? Two skilled strikers who again would definitely get the hardcore fans interested aswell as provide entertainment for the casual fans in a Striker Vs Striker bout. A matchup which for me either man could win and with both fighters entering into the later years of their careers a win which would be highly regarded for both.
Let me know your views and thoughts on who you would like to see Cro Cop fight when he is back in the UFC on twitter @mmanarchy and on facebook at facebook.com/whoatv