The 411 MMA Top 10 04.01.13: The Top 10 Mirko Cro Cop Fights
Posted by Alex Rella on 04.01.2013
From his battles with Fedor Emelianenko and Wanderlei Silva to his trilogy with Josh Barnett and more, 411's Alex Rella counts down the top 10 Mirko "Cro Cop" Flipovic fights!
Mirko Cro Cop's Top Ten Fights
Hey everybody. I hope everyone had a nice Easter and now it's time again for the MMA Top Ten. This week we will be looking at the top ten fights of Mirko Flipovic's career. Right leg, hospital; left leg, cemetery, sums up the early part of his career. Mirko Cro Cop is one of the greatest heavyweights to ever compete in MMA. One of the greatest strikers in MMA moved over from K-1 to Pride in 2001. He was the winner of the 2006 Pride Open-Weight Grand Prix and has a long list of wins over other legends of the sport. His UFC run was lack luster, but he has since returned to kickboxing. Cro Cop has shown he is still a good fighter in his older age as he is 6-0 since returning to K-1 and even won the K-1 World Grand Prix 2012 a few weeks ago. This is a huge accomplishment considering he was a runner up thirteen years ago. This week's list is based on fight quality, the significance of the fight in relation to his career and MMA, and some of my personal opinion. Also this is just his MMA fights, but I'm sure someone will ask why I didn't list the fight with Bob Sapp.
• VS Mark Coleman: Pride 29- Another big first round knockout as Cro Cop defeated the legend and his third former UFC champion in a row.
• VS Kevin Randleman: Pride Shockwave- He won by guillotine choke in under a minute to avenge one of the biggest losses of his career.
10: VS Igor Vovchanchyn Pride Elimination 2003
Igor Vovchanchyn was only 5'8 and was the best heavyweight in the world for a couple years. But he fought so much at a young age that it wore down his body and he ended up retiring at only 32. Even though his career was cut short, he still fought 66 times (55-10(1)) and had 63 kickboxing fights (61-2). One of the last high profiled fights of his career was against Flipovic at Pride Total Elimination 2003. Cro Cop was on a role at this point having defeated Heath Herring and Sakuraba in Pride. Vovchanchyn's career was winding down at this point, but he was still a feared striker. He came out aggressive and then Cro Cop connected with a Roadhouse style kick to win knockout of the year and further establish himself as one of the top heavyweights in the world.
9: VS Alexander Emelianenko Pride Conflict 2004
Alexander Emelianenko was nowhere as good as his older brother, but he had a solid career with some fun fights. Alexander was only 22 when he transitioned from Sambo to Pride in 2003. At this point Flipovic was really advocating for a chance to fight Fedor, but his stock was still down from when Kevin Randleman knocked him out. Alexander was undefeated at this point and a large guy at 6'6. He looked to muscle and push around Cro Cop early on, but Cro Cop was too evasive and a far superior boxer. Cro Cop knocked him out with a first round head kick as he continued his push for a chance at the Pride heavyweight title.
8:VS Kazushi Sakuraba Pride Shockwave 2002
Mirko Cro Cop took on Japanese legend Kazushi Sakuraba in only the fifth fight of his career. This was a huge fight for Cro Cop as The Gracie Hunter was still in the prime of his career in 2002. So it wasn't like Mayhem Miller bragging about beating Sakuraba in 2010. Pride Shockwave drew over 90,000 people and this was the main event. Many thought the experienced Sakuraba would be able to bring the fight to the ground and submit the kickboxer. It wasn't an overly exciting fight as most of it was spent on the ground battling for control. Sakuraba had him mounted for most of the second round, but Cro Cop got in plenty of punches and elbows breaking Sakuraba's orbital bone to end the fight. This was the first of many big wins for the Croatian.
7:VS Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira Pride Critical 2005
Cro Cop's first two years in Pride was like one long awesome highlight reel. After going 7-0-2, he got his first chance at gold against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira for the Pride interim heavyweight championship. The first round was all Cro Cop. His takedown defense was perfect and he picked Big Nog apart with his kicks. Big Nog was saved by the bell when Cro Cop knocked him down with a high left kick at the end of the round. Big Nog finally scored a takedown in the second round to mount Cro Cop. It wasn't long until he locked in an armbar to win the title and have one of the all time great comebacks. A few MMA publications would name this the 2003 fight of the year. The submission loss would lead Cro Cop to start training with Fabricio Werdum which had a large positive impact on the rest of his career. This is mostly remembered for being a defining moment in Big Nog's career, but it was still a great fight for Cro Cop.
6: VS Heath Herring Pride 26
Heath Herring was one of the top heavyweights in Pride for a couple years, but he could never break into that next level and defeat any of the real top fighters. He went 12-5 in four years and foght for the heavyweight title at Pride 17. At Pride 26, Herring tried to take out the undefeated Cro Cop. Herring came into the fight with the right game plan as he darted in and out to stay out of striking distance, kept his hands high to defend the high kicks, and going for take downs early on. Unfortunately for him he was unable to take the fight to the ground and Cro Cop kept closing the distance. Three minutes into the fight, Cro Cop connected with a liver kick. Herring would drop to the floor a few moments later and Cro Cop would finish him off with strikes. This would set the precedent that Cro Cop could finish off his opponents with kicks to any part of the body.
Cro Cop went up against some stiff competition in the 2006 Pride Open-Weight Grand Prix and he took on Hidehiko Yoshida in the quarterfinals. Yoshida was an Olympic judo gold medalist and one of Pride's top draws at the time. He had wins over Don Frye, Tank Abbott, Mark Hunt, Naoya Ogawa, and Royce Gracie. Yea Gracie bitched about it so it's not technically a win, but it's good enough for me. The first couple minutes of the fight were spent in a cool kind of test of strength with both fighters feeling each other out. Yoshida wasn't a bad striker, but it wasn't long until Cro Cop started to pick him apart with his kicks. Yoshida was forced to forfeit after Cro Cop fractured his leg and was finished for the first time in his career.
4:VS Josh Barnett Pride 30
Cro Cop and Josh Barnett had an ok trilogy in Pride. Barnett came over to Pride after getting kicked out of the UFC for steroids and spending some time with smaller Japanese organizations. His first fight in Pride was against Cro Cop at Pride 28 on Halloween 2004. Barnett would fracture and dislocate his shoulder simultaneously in the first round ending the fight. Barnett would come back a year later at Pride 30 for their second and best fight of the three. This was two months after Cro Cop lost to Fedor and he was looking to take care of business. Barnett is a great fighter, but Cro Cop was on another level that night. His striking was great and he even outwrestled Barnett. Barnett was unable to takedown Filipovic and he got busted open late in the fight. Filipovic won by unanimous decision. They met for a final time in the Pride 2006 Openweight Grand Prix finals. That time Barnett would have to throw in the towel after an accidental eye poke. Unfortunately the first and third fights are online, but I couldn't find the second one.
3: VS Pat Barry UFC 115
I enjoyed Cro Cop's second run with the UFC. Except for the fight with Mir that was awful, they were all fun fights and the fight with Pat Barry was his best in the octagon. Barry is another great kickboxer and got his MMA career off to a nice start as he was 5-1 at this point. Barry dominated the first round dropping Flipovic twice and it looked like his jaw was broken. Cro Cop showed real heart as he battled back in the final two rounds. It looked like his old Pride days as he really mixed up his kicks to take the fight. He threw leg kicks, side kicks, high kicks, hook kicks and even an axe kick to Barry's face. Even his ground game was on that night. Of course Barry has one of the worst ground games in MMA, but Cro Cop would have had success against anyone that night. Cro Cop finished him with the vicious flurry up against the cage in the third round that allowed him to take his back and lock in a rear naked choke. Cro Cop even picked up the Submission of the Night. A really exciting fight and feel good win for the veteran as he battled back.
2: VS Fedor Emelianenko Pride Conflict 2005
This was the most anticipated heavyweight fight in MMA history. Talks of this showdown started around 2003, but it would get delayed as Fedor briefly left Pride and Cro Cop had untimely losses to Big Nog and later Kevin Randleman at 2004 Pride Heavyweight Grand Prix opening round. After the huge upset loss to Randleman, Cro Cop went on an awesome run rebuilding himself and winning seven straight. This included wins over Barnett, Randleman, Mark Coleman, and Fedor's younger brother. They finally met at the Pride Final Conflict 2005. The striking in the first couple minutes was awesome as they would just stalk and then explode on each other. They were so evenly matched for the first round and a half with Cro Cop coming out to a slight lead as he broke Fedor's nose with stiff jabs and bruised his ribs with body kicks. Then Fedor took the fight to the ground and he just wore down Cro Cop with ground and pound. Cro Cop seemed to slow down a bit as Fedor became much more aggressive, as he continued to take the fight to the ground and even won the striking exchanges late in the fight. The fight went to the judges after twenty minutes and Fedor won by unanimous decision.
This would win fight of the year and fight of the decade by most MMA publications/awards. I personally think this is the best heavyweight fight of all time and it has to be in the all around top ten fights of all time. So why isn't it number one this week? Well Cro Cop lost and failed to win a Pride title for the second time in his career. Also the number one fight was on the biggest night of his career and was his greatest accomplishment as he finally proved he could win the big one.
1: VS Wanderlei Silva Pride Final Absolute
The two men with the most knockouts in Pride history and arguably the best strikers in all of MMA met in the semifinals of the Pride 2006 Openweight Grand Prix. Wanderlei Silva competed at heavyweight a few times in Pride and was entered in the tournament to replace an injured Emelianenko. They first fought four years earlier at Pride 20, but that was under stupid modified rules and it ended in a draw. Both of these fighters were so dangerous and their different styles made for an awesome fight. Silva's striking was just brutal and wild, but Cro Cop was connecting shots with great precision. Cro Cop scored a knockdown with a stiff jab to mount Silva and bloody him up with ground and pound. After a couple of body kicks, Silva's ribs were hurting bad and he had to lower his stance to protect the area. This opened him up for Cro Cop's left high kick. Cro Cop knocked out Silva to reach the finals and win knockout of the year by many publications. His win over Barnett was anticlimactic, but winning this tournament was the highest achievement of his career and this was his best fight on his final night in Pride.
• So let me know how you guys would rank them or maybe I left a fight out that you thought should be in the top 10.
• As always, let me know if there are any topics or fighters you would like to see ranked in the future.
• Save the dates: This week Pro Wrestling Syndicate is having some stacked shows the week of Wrestlemania at the Metuchen Sports Plex at 215 Durham Avenue, NJ.
Thursday April 4th-the card includes Vader, Billy Graham, Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, Colt Cabana, Kevin Matthews, Starman, John Morrison, Elijah Burke, Rock N Roll Express, Briscoe Brothers, Trent Barretta, Sonjay Dutt, Kevin Steen, Anthony Nese, Davey Richards, Necro Butcher, The Sheik, New Jack, Simon Dean, and Tommy Dreamer.
Friday April 5th is just as stacked with Bret Hart, Tom Prichard, Billy Graham, John Morrison, Jushin Liger, Tony Nese, Kevin Matthews, New Jack, Necro Butcher, Trent Barretta, Hurricane Helms, Starman, Chris Chetti, Nova, Pat Buck, Tommy Dreamer, Carlito, Sabu, Sonjay Dutt, Bonesaw, Rock N Roll Express, Big O, Paul Orndorff, Kevin Sullivan, Eugene, and Doink the Clown.
• Next week I'll rank ten fights that should have happened.