Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic left the Octagon in 2011, intending to retire from mixed martial arts. But he caught the bug and returned to fighting in Japan, amassing a 3-1 record over his past four fights.
Then when the UFC decided to make its Polish debut in Krakow, they came calling with an offer the Cro Cop couldn’t refuse: an opportunity to avenge a loss to Gabriel Gonzaga in the UFC Fight Night 64 main event on Saturday.
As the fight got underway, it certainly seemed as if Cro Cop might not be able to take advantage of that opportunity.
Gonzaga started strong, utilizing a strategy of lurching at Cro Cop with big right hands, getting his attention on the feet, and using that to set up the Brazilian’s takedowns.
That worked well for Gonzaga in rounds one and two. He landed a few hard right hands in both rounds and then secured takedowns that kept him in control on the mat for the majority of both rounds.
Gonzaga nearly finished the fight near the end of round two, when he opened Cro Cop up with a series of elbows from the full mount.
But don’t ever count the Croatian out.
As the big Brazilian wobbled, Cro Cop swarmed him, trying to finish, but eventually forcing him to his back on the mat.
Cro Cop went to work from inside Gonzaga’s guard, landing a brutal flurry of left elbows that bloodied Gonzaga’s face and forced him to turn and cover, as the referee stepped in to stop the fight.
As stoic is ever, Cro Cop said after the fight that everything went mostly as planned.
“We made the plan, two rounds, just to stay calm, and we really believed that the third round or maybe the fourth one would be the finish,” said the legendary fighter.
And while many had questioned whether Cro Cop would be one and done after this fight, he, in his patented nonchalant demeanor, said that he would take a week or two of, but “of course” he would be back to fight again.