When you love something, sometimes it’s easier to live in the past. You can convince yourself that way that Weezer is still the band that made Pinkerton. That your girlfriend still has that sparkle in her eyes, still laughs at your jokes. You can convince yourself that Derek Jeter is still relevant. And you can still believe that Mirko Cro Cop is a dangerous fighter.
Mirko “Cro Cop” Filopovic once struck fear into the hearts of men. I know that is hard to believe. The guy that could barely finish a crippled Pat Barry? The same timid striker who looked ordinary against the Anthony Perosh’s of the world? But it’s easy to forget those performances. Four years of less than stellar performances, easily erased by the flashbulb intensity of memory.
Because it’s the great moments we’ll remember. It’s easy to forget Cro Cop looking confused against Eddie Sanchez, searching for a fighter within himself that was no longer there. But forgetting the mighty Igor Vovchancin hitting the mat like a stubby little oak tree, eyes closed to the world, memories of dancing girls and vodka floating through his mind? That’s a little harder. It’s those moments that sustain us. They allow us, as fans, to tolerate a main event of Frank Mir and Mirko Cro Cop.
Five Great Cro Cop moments after the break.
5. Cro Cop didn’t just enter a state needing to register himself as a deadly weapon. He needed to register two – his left and right leg. It was a tagline for the ages: Right leg, hospital. Left leg, cemetery. It was never more true than in his fight with Aleksander Emelianenko. Watch the speed, ferocity, and killer instinct on display here. Then tell me you didn’t shudder, just a little.
4. The new and friendly Mirko Cro Cop, the vulnerable one that talks of retirement and probably watches reruns of Golden Girls on Oxygen – banish him from your mind. I prefer to recall this man. The man who looked the devil in the eye and never once blinked. The first fight between Cro Cop and Wanderlei Silva was a dream match. Cro Cop was representing K-1 and this was his first real fight for Pride (he had toyed around with Nobuhiko Takada at Pride 17). Silva was the fan favorite, the MMA wrecking ball who never took a backwards step. Fought under modified rules, the fight ended in a five round draw.
3. In the rematch, Silva wasn’t so fortunate. This time around Cro Cop landed his devestating left high kick and left the Pride legend unconcious on the mat. This was once again the tale of two opposites. Polar opposites. Cro Cop was ice – a calm demeanor married to precision technical striking. Silva was fire. Jacked to the gills and actually heavier than Cro Cop for this fight, Wanderlei was like a rabid pitbull. What he lacked in technique he more than made up for with furious, furious rage. A great contrast and a great fight.
2. Even Mirko Cro Cop’s losses are emblazened in our brains. Yes, Kevin Randleman was a former UFC Heavyweight Champion. Yes, he was a two time NCAA wrestling champion. Yes, he had legs to die for (if you were John Peretti) and a physique second to none. But Kevin Randleman wasn’t supposed to beat Cro Cop in 2004. Funny how the ring makes the impossible, well, possible. A left hook sent Cro Cop realing and MMA had an all-time great upset.
1. For years Cro Cop had been an also ran. He never won a K-1 World Grand Prix. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Fedor Emelianenko had crushed his dream of being Pride champion twice. Would he go down in history as the best heavyweight never to wear gold? Like all the greats, Cro Cop took his destiny into his own hands. On the same night he beat Silva, his birthday no less, the Croatian legend defeated Josh Barnett to become the Pride Absolute Grand Prix champion. The stoic champion was unable to control his emotion. With tears in his eyes, he had the Grand Prix title belt strapped around his waist. Champion at last.
This is the Cro Cop we remember. And, if only for a moment, the Cro Cop we will see in the cage at UFC 119. Will it be another moment for the ages? Or an inglorious loss to be painstakingly scrubbed from memory? We’ll soon know as Cro Cop writes one of the final chapters of his story inside the cage in Indianapolis.
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