So it comes to this. After the legendary fights against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueria and Fedor Emelianenko, the devastating wins at the expense of Wanderlei Silva and Kevin Randleman, and the epic victory in the 2006 Pride Openweight Grand Prix the storied career of Mirko Cro Cop ends in Las Vegas on a throwaway undercard fight against a fat reality show winner.
Don’t believe it for a second.
Mirko Cro Cop walks into the Octagon on Saturday as one of the few fighters who knows he’s not going anywhere! With the UFC about to return to Japan for the first time in the Zuffa era there is no way in all that is controlled by the Yakuza that Dana White let’s the former Pride and K-1 megastar go before he appears in the Super Saitama Arena one last time. More than that in a division desperately short of names, Cro Cop is still a superstar against whom the next generation can make a name for themselves. Don’t believe me? Well consider this; even after all the disappointments of his UFC run did he or did he not get the third biggest reaction at the weigh-ins on Friday?
Still even legends and superstars make more money when they’re winning. This has been a good year for legends so far with Tito Ortiz and Nogueira turning back the clock to shock much-fancied upstarts while Matt Hughes made a good go of it against Josh Koscheck. Cro Cop himself looked good against Brendan Schaub, taking the TUF10 runner-up to his very limit until getting knocked out in the third round.
And that is the question mark against Mirko Cro Cop, can he avoid his chin costing him the fight? While its unfair to say that he’s glass chinned as he’s stood up to hard shots from Junior Dos Santos, Pat Barry and Frank Mir his punch resistance is clearly not what it was. And he’s facing somebody in Roy Nelson that is a real threat standing. While his hands may be uneducated, Roy Nelson can pack real power in his punches, particularly with his favored overhand right. And as Nelson proved against Dos Santos and Mir he can withstand tremendous punishment having perfected his Homer “Southern Dandy” Simpson impersation. So while one would expect Mirko Cro Cop to outpoint Nelson standing he would have to go fifteen minutes without being caught by a telling blow to secure a decision victory, something he hasn’t done since 2005.
What makes that all the more unlikely is that Roy Nelson has learned the lesson of UFC 130 where his performance was roundly criticized after he badly gassed in the course of his fight against Frank Mir. While his physique was hidden by a fat suit, its clear that Nelson will walked into the Octagon in significantly better shape than he competed at in May. The improvement in his performance that this improved conditioning will bring should secure Nelson the victory unless Cro Cop can really turn back time and party like its 2006!
Tags: Frank Mir, Junior dos Santos, Mirko Cro Cop, Mixed Martial Arts, Pat Barry, Roy Nelson, UFC 137, UFC Heavyweight Division