It’s looking like MMA great Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic might call it a career and move on to a life that does not involve kicking people in their heads. That’s sad for those of us who remember his glory days in Pride, but it’s also an inevitable fact of life. No matter how well you do something, you can’t do it well forever. Just ask Mötley Crüe. But at the risk of eulogizing Cro Cop too soon, we wanted to pay tribute to his greatest moments in the ring. Nothing gold can stay, but we’re guessing these victims will never forget their beatdowns.
#5: Cro Cop vs. Aleksander Emelianenko, Pride Final Conflict, 8/15/04
Some of you youngsters may find this hard to believe, but there was a time when Aleksander “Don’t Ask Me To Take a Blood Test” Emelianenko was a fresh-faced killer on the Pride scene, knocking dudes out and not feeling one way or another about it. Then he ran up against Cro Cop, who fed him a steady diet of straight lefts and a brain-jarring high kick that effectively ended it. Though Fedor would later win a decision over Cro Cop in a bit of reluctant revenge for his embarrassing younger bro, it didn’t cancel out the sheer brutality that left brother Aleks on his back in a mummy pose.
Even before Fedor Emelianenko was the dominant heavyweight with the man-on-the-street build, Igor Vovchanchyn showed fight fans that a pale, doughy, almost infant-like physique didn’t necessarily mean that you couldn’t knock suckas out. Against Cro Cop, however, he found an opponent who could take a shot as well as he could give one, and it didn’t take long for Mirko to find his range and go upside Igor’s head with a little foot music.
#3: Cro Cop vs. Heath Herring, Pride 26, 6/8/03
If you thought Cro Cop’s kicks could only end a fight when they landed in the cranial region, think again. After he tossed around Heath Herring like he was a rascally Croatian village orphan, Cro Cop could see that “The Texas Crazy Horse” was ready to quit. All he needed was a little help. That help came in the form of a kick to the liver that crumpled Herring in the corner. Too bad for him those nice Pride refs were perfectly willing to let him take about fifteen mostly unnecessary punches before deciding to stop it.
#2: Cro Cop vs. Wanderlei Silva, Pride Final Conflict Absolute, 9/10/06
Sure, this was Cro Cop’s chance to fight someone out of his weight class and put a man-sized beating on a smaller opponent. But dammit, what else are crazy open weight tournaments for? At least now we know why no one else does them. After roughing Silva up for a few minutes and weathering the storms of looping hooks, Cro Cop found the opening he never really stops looking for and it was time to bounce a kick off Wanderlei’s dome. Thank God Frank Trigg was on the mic to give us his trademark catch-phrase.
#1: Cro Cop vs. Josh Barnett, Pride Final Conflict Absolute, 9/10/06
We had no way of knowing it at the time, but his open weight GP victory over Josh Barnett was truly the peak of Cro Cop’s career. The aggression, power, and single-minded focus on his opponent’s total destruction that he displayed in this fight is everything that he lacked in his outing. It may not make him feel much better now, but this fight is proof that Cro Cop was an absolute terror once. Just because it’s over doesn’t mean it wasn’t great while it lasted.