It was about four years ago when I was watching an edition of Eurosport’s Fight Club show. The show was showing highlights of the recent K-1 Saitama Grand Prix. I was kind of drifting in and out of the event, until he the main event.
The match involved Japan’s latest favourite American import, the Beast himself, Bob Sapp. To say that Sapp was popular in the land of the rising sun would be an understatement. Some likened his popularity to that of Muhammad Ali, which I thought was a bit over the top. Sapp was all over the place, competing in K-1, Pride, and New Japan. It seemed over the next few months that whenever I saw a wrestling or MMA show from Japan, Sapp was there.
But Sapp came unwound a little that night, as he went into the ring against Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic. This was the first time I’d ever seen Cro Cop in action, and if truth be known, I hadn’t ever heard of the guy before. But even though Sapp had his massive muscles, his awesome aura, and almost every fan in the building behind him, it meant nothing to Cro Cop. One minute twenty six seconds into the fight, Cro Cop connected with a punch so vicious that it broke Sapp’s orbital bone and knocked him out.
Immediately, I was hooked. This awesome display of power and punching ability made me an immediate fan. But that would prove to be his last fight in K-1, but during this time, he had also been cutting his teeth in the mixed martial arts world of the Pride Fighting Championship. Cro Cop suffered only four losses in Pride, but the list of fighters he defeated read’s like a who’s who of MMA - Sakuraba, Herring, Vovchanchyn, Barnett, Randleman, and Coleman.
But it was in 2006 that he really came into his own. Cro Cop entered the Pride Openweight Grand Prix tournament, and after defeating Hidehiko Yoshida via TKO in the first round, in the tournament proper he destroyed the man regarded as the best light-heavyweight in MMA, Wanderlei Silva, in the first round, knocking him out with a high kick, and, of course, ruining Silva’s chance of getting that immediate dream match with UFC Light-Heavyweight king Chuck Lidell. In the final, Cro Cop one when Josh Barnett sustained an eye injury and was unable to continue.
At the UFC’s last pay-per-view, despite the fact that the show was headlined by Chuck Lidell’s re-match with Tito Ortiz, the big news for me was that Mirko Cro Cop had signed to fight for UFC, taking on Eddie Sanchez at UFC 67: All or Nothing on February 3rd. Having not really seen anything of Sanchez as a fighter, I can’t really comment on how well he’s likely to do, but I’m sure that for many this fight will be the most highly anticipated fight on the card.
Mirko Co Cop could be the best thing to happen in the UFC heavyweight division. For me, the heavyweights are probably the weakest division in UFC right now. Apart from Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski, I can’t say I’ve been impressed with some of the heavyweight fights I’ve seen recently, and the fact that Randy Couture is coming out of retirement to challenge Sylvia for the title in March says a lot. But the addition of Cro Cop could change all that. While I’d like to see a Sylvia/Cro Cop fight, Arlovski v Cro Cop would really do it for me.
And at the end of UFC 66, commentator Joe Rogan made a very interesting point - that Cro Cop could also fight in the light-heavyweight division. Imagine Lidell v Cro Cop, Ortiz v Cro Cop.
I’ve waited four years to see Mirko Cro Cop finally step into the UFC Octagon. And now it’s time for the big guy to show the world what he can do. Go get ‘em Mirko!
Now it’s time to plug a few of items;
Visit A-Merchandise, the official sponsor of The Two Sheds Review, by logging onto www.a-merchandise.co.uk. They stock a wide array of DVDs from all over the world, including FWA, Premier Promotions and IPW: UK from Britain, ROH, Shimmer and PWG from America, as well as merchandise from WWE, UFC, Pro Wrestling NOAH and much more.
The final voting for the 2006 Two Sheds Review Awards is now open, with Edge, John Cena, Shawn Michaels, C.M. Punk and Samoa Joe up for the Wrestler of the Year award, and Mirko Cro Cop, Chuck Lidell, Tito Ortiz and Georges St. Pierre up for MMA Fighter of the Year. There’s also ten other categories to vote in, and polls close on February 10th. Log onto www.twoshedsreview.com to find out more!
And finally, some of my work has made it into book form, with the first two stories of my 1990 Anglo-Force series, co-written with my brother Paul, available to buy online at www.lulu.com/twosheds316