Brendan Schaub Title Hopes May Spell the End for Cro Cop at UFC 128

Getting knocked cold in his first big fight has worked out pretty well for Brendan Schaub (7-1, 6KOs). Sure Roy Nelson gets to call himself “The Ultimate Fighter”, but it also launched him to the top of the heavyweight division and into matches he may or may not be able to win. He was simply out classed by Junior Dos Santos and in May he goes up against Frank Mir. Meanwhile Schaub has made the most of his opportunity to fly under the radar and is now on the verge of moving into title contention. The first post-TUF step of his evolution was to maul the two stepping stones known as Chase Gormley and Chris Tuchscherer in a combined 1:54. That earned him a chance to fight famed gatekeeper Gabriel Gonzaga at the overly stuffed UFC 121. Gonzaga managed to stay alive for all three rounds making him the first to take Schaub the distance, but he looked lethargic and uninterested throughout most of it. Schaub came away looking like the hungriest fighter alive helped somewhat by the fact that Gonzaga seemed determined to play the part of washed up old timer begging for his release. But now that Schaub is established and a known entity will he still be able to maintain that intensity? This weekend Joe Silva has once again done him a favor and tossed him another aged veteran with a big name who also is struggling to stay alive in the business.

Mirko Cro Cop (27-8-2, 20 KOs, 4 SUBs) is undeniably a legend in the sport, but when he steps into the Octagon on Saturday it will be his 39th fight. He’s been a pro for ten years and predictably his body is not what it once was. Over the past few years his decline has been more noticeable. He did earn a victory over Pat Barry at UFC 115 but most experts agree that had Barry not broken his hand and his foot he could have finished Cro Cop off. Then there was also the most depressing fight of 2010 when he and Frank Mir “fought” in the main event of UFC 119. There he slowed dance around the cage for two and a half rounds before catching a vicious knee on the chin and going to sleep. His career at this point has the look and feel of a farewell tour and if that is the case then it makes perfect sense for the UFC to put him in there against Schaub and hope that the youngster can earn the rub. The X Factor will be Cro Cop and which incarnation shows up this weekend. His striking, especially his kicks, are better but they are also older and inevitably slower. Schaub has yet to take on a top level striker and one gets the feeling that that may prove to be his Achilles Heel. We still don’t know if Schaub has the talent to back up all of this hunger but the reality of the situation is that if Cro Cop decides to go out there and kickbox he will more than likely lose. Still the fight is incredibly fascinating, a classic old guard vs. new guard showdown that helps to fill out a stacked card at UFC 128.

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