Hello! – Hello! – It’s good to be back! It’s good to be back!
So said Liam in 1995, and so says the intellectual Liam Gallagher of MMA reporting. Now hold hands and sing Kumbaya; this topic is one we all love; the most exciting heavyweight MMA striker we’ve ever had the pleasure of watching ply his savage trade, and more pertinently his upcoming bout against a very skilled, outspoken and controversial former heavyweight kingpin.
Bonjour kids, I’ve got a fun fact for you; they say that three is a magic number. This is my third lyrical rampage at LowKick, and I certainly hope that its magical powers rub off on the protagonist of this Disney fable… open your knees and feel the breeze, I’m here to convince you (and myself, and Mirko Filipovic) that Croatia’s most beloved contribution to fight sports still has the tools in his toolbox to put away the outspoken former UFC Heavyweight champion, the dangerous Frank Mir.
Firstly, I’ll get to the point – head to head skillsets. I’ll leave the glowing account of his career until later. I believe Mirko has this one sussed primarily due to his undoubted superiority in the striking sense, his renowned takedown defence, coupled with Mir’s history of losing by technical knockout, wilting under pressure, and questionable wrestling from a classic Greco-Roman or freestyle perspective; i.e. his ability to take another highly skilled, similar sized man to the canvas.
Mirko’s problems have seemingly been of the psychological variety, as opposed to merely physical decline. After a late-career loss to Junior Dos Santos, he openly commented that he “had been thinking about fishing in Privlaka instead of focusing on the fight”, and that afterwards he “felt like hanging (himself) in (his) hotel room”. While he was undoubtedly in his physical prime from 1998-2003, and noticeably slower thenceforth, with less explosive, fast twitch reflexes, he greatly improved his grappling game, and it would be that which enabled him to go on to beat catch wrestling standout Josh Barnett three times (once via injury), the third time to win the 2006 Pride Open-Weight Grand Prix title, having beaten Wanderlei Silva by head kick knockout earlier that night. But make no bones – from a physical perspective, Mirko was already passed his prime. And his subsequent two defeats in 2007 after making the high profile defection to the UFC were indicative not only of that, but of the vast difference for a striker to fight in a wide cage, under unified rules MMA which deprive the striker of various offensive weapons which are used to keep the dreaded wrestlers at bay in Japan.
Despite the two setbacks, Mirko found his feet in Dream again – defeating Tatsuya Mizuno and HongMan Choi, but faring badly against Alistair Overeem before the Dutchman’s illegal knees ended the bout in a No Contest. He returned to the UFC in 2009, quickly disposing of Mustapha Al Turk, before the aforementioned JDS fight. But then, a renaissance of sorts – he was victorious after a remarkable comeback against touted young lion Pat Barry, a fellow striker who knocked Mirko down twice in round one, only to be axe-kicked, dropped and choked out in return in the final stanza. Cro Cop showed the heart of old; a heartening sign in turn for his legions of fans, many of whom had lost hope after a handful of stale, plodding performances.
It remains to be seen if the old, plodding Mirko will turn up, with the lakes and trout of Privlaka on his distracted mind, or if the angry tiger who stormed Pat Barry at the start of round two will again take his place – Eye Of The Tiger rediscovered. If THAT Mirko shows… the fact is, he will stop Frank Mir. A Cro Cop attacking with the fury and malice of old has too much fire and fury for Mir – notorious for wilting if he finds himself unable to yank a limb early in the fight.
Slowed down strikes and reflexes or not, Mirko in his mid-thirties is still faster than Mir. His strikes are on another level – it angered me to hear the promoter Dana White appealing to the masses with “this guy likes to stand and bang, this one wont be hugging” or whatever nonsense he spewed. Stand and bang? This man has some of the most elite level striking ever seen in MMA. He would have won the 1999 K-1 World Grand Prix, if it wasn’t Ernesto Hoost he found himself competing against with a broken rib in the final.
Mir – save for a Hail Mary shot a la the Kongo fight – cannot stand and trade with Cro Cop. I do not believe he can take Mirko down; Cro Cop, in his prime a 220lbs heavyweight (yes, that is lighter than most current light-heavyweights) was renowned for stifling takedowns; he did it to Mark Coleman, he did it to Aleksander Emelianenko, he did it to Josh Barnett in three fights, he did it to Ron Waterman, he did it to Kazuyuki Fujita, he did it to Kevin Randleman – against whom he showed his ever improving submission skills too, when he choked him out mere seconds into their rematch. All these men are far superior takedown artists to Frank Mir.
If Mir is to win this, he needs to get it to the ground quick. Frank should not be underestimated; he is a FANTASTIC martial artist. There seems an unstoppable will in the man, that makes him strive harder with every loss and setback to improve his game, and he is a dangerous fight for anyone. His striking was sub par? Now, he knocks down kickboxers like Kongo, and men skilled in boxing like Nogueira. He was too small to deal with Brock in the rematch? He bulked up by 25lbs, and beasted Kongo. Now, with his last loss to Carwin, one has to wonder what he has improved on.
But, should a Mirko with 70% of the tiger that existed within his Bushido show up on Saturday, the fight is his.
Secondly, lets look at Mirko’s oft-downplayed record. It is hard to believe, what with all the new-age fans jumping onto the MMA bandwagon and spewing out their own inflated opinions about fighters’ they never once saw in prime, with no understanding of the difference between a fighter during and after his physical prime, not to mention the old cage vs. ring issue… but, hard to believe or not, Cro Cop has one of the top four deepest resumes at heavyweight in Mixed Martial Arts history.
It is laughable to say that this man is “overshadowed by the New Breed of UFC heavyweight”. For a start, with Overeem, Werdum, Fedor, Barnett, Sergei, Silva, Del Rosario, Arlovski and Rogers, Strikeforce boasts a FAR superior heavyweight division to the comparatively measly one of the UFC. Furthermore, the “New Breed” hype was exposed as false, when first Todd Duffee was knocked out by unheralded Mike Russow, then Brock and Carwin put on a hilarious contest that featured the champ running from punches, then curling up into a ball in the foetal position while his opponent ran out of gas, and was submitted like an inanimate object – all the while being hyped by the UFC as “the baddest men on the planet”. Then even JDS, a man with superior skill to either Brock or Shane, gassed badly and could not put Roy Nelson away. Pitiful. Prime Mirko Cro Cop fought strikers, wrestlers, hybrid fighters, BJJ experts, and eight times out of ten he put them away – and he did it with ferocity and aggression the likes of which some of the current UFC crop have never once looked capable of showing.
There is not one heavyweight in the UFC with prime Cro Cop’s striking, nor his takedown defence. And Mirko’s willingness to improve is remarkable – after kicking Nogueira around like a football for 10 minutes before being submitted, Mirko worked on his ground game, and only two years later was able to MOUNT – yes, mount, Josh Barnett, the current king of American catch-as-catch-can submission wrestling.
If Mir can defy Mirko’s legendary sprawl, and somehow get this fight to the ground in round 1, his dangerous and aggressive top control BJJ will stand him in good stead for a submission victory. But Cro Cop trained with Fabricio Werdum for years, and is not the same green, raw and powerful striker who was taken down and gratefully submitted by a weary and bruised Nogueira in 2003. If Mirko has his sprawl, push/clinch and throwing game on, this night could end very painfully for the mercurially talented Frank Mir.
One final problem that no one seems to grasp, when talking about “the New Breed”, guys like Brock, Shane, Duffee, and the new, bulked up Mir. 265lbs is a LOT of muscle and bulk to carry in a fight… it’s a tremendous amount of tissue and fibres that need oxygen. Mirko has landed his tree trunk legs and heavy fists on much bigger men before, winning by virtue not only due to a distinct superiority in striking, but by using his speed and the superior cardio that being a lean, ripped 220lbs did for him. Remember the Al Turk fight? The Croatian Sensation weighed in at nearly 240lbs, and looked far more sluggish, flat footed and lacklustre than at his devastating best.
This fight depends on the Mirko that shows up. Two fights ago, you’d have bet the house on Mir post-Kongo destruction, but the fight game is the craziest reality entertainment around – as it is, the “washed up” Cro Cop is coming into this fight on the back of a legit win, whereas Mir is licking his wounds from a crushing first round stoppage loss in an interim UFC title fight against heavy handed Shane Carwin. Who’d have dreamt it?
Shane may have 40lbs weight advantage on Mirko, but I know who I’d rather not have pounding away on me from the side mount – the K-1 WGP finalist with thai-boxing wins over K-1 champions and legends such as Remy Bonjasky, Mark Hunt, Jerome Le Banner, Peter Aerts and Ray Sefo. A man with a similar list of MMA legends notched into his wins column, such as Josh Barnett x3, Igor Vovchanchyn, Aleksander Emelianenko, Wanderlei Silva, Kazushi Sakuraba, Mark Coleman and Kevin Randleman. And one critic at sherdog claimed Mirko was a “product of youtube, custom built for it”, with a bloated reputation! Check his record again, sonny jim. Do not write off Mirko “Tigar” Filipovic, the Croatian Cop just quite yet.
100+ fights in amateur boxing, thai-boxing, the elite level of K-1, and the very elite level of Mixed Martial Arts, is obviously going to hasten the decline of ANY combat sports athlete. Mirko is no different. But remember that, whichever Cro Cop steps into a ring or cage now – remember how much he has given the sport, and that it is the long and wearisome road of the warrior that is partly responsible for his losses at this stage, not the implied superiority of his younger, fresher opponents.
A rejuvenated Mirko takes this via T/KO. Here is hoping.
Please visit my blog at http://mmafletch.blogspot.com, and my forums at http://teamtakeover.tk, and http://minowamantopteam.heavenforum.com.
Team Takeover is for passionate fans sick of the false hype, propaganda and bullshit politics in USMMA, and Minowaman Top Team is a new forum I’m building for a more Japanese MMA orientated discussion.
Here is a 4x deleted sherdog thread I’ve revived at TT – the official Mirko Cro Cop Hope Wagon – i.e. the Armoured Lucko War Tank!
Here is hoping to a great fight, between two fighters I admire for coming back from adversity, and for improving themselves and learning from their losses.
Thank you for reading.
It’s been emotional,