Cro Cop’s Curse?

Mirko Cro Cop and Josh Barnett at Pride 30

Mirko Cro Cop and Josh Barnett at Pride 30

After defeating highly ranked heavyweight fighter Heath Herring in June of 2003 and Russian heavy hitter Igor Vovchanchyn two months later, it seemed former Croation police officer, Mirko Filipovic would be on a collision course for a title shot. Pride champion Fedor Emelianenko had dispatched former champion Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Noguiera earlier in the year and Cro Cop seemed the next logical choice for a title shot.

An injury to Fedor prevented the match-up so many fans begged to see, so instead Cro Cop would battle the former champion Nogueira for an interim title in Fedor’s absence. In a fight that saw the lethal hands and feet of Cro Cop batter the Brazilian submission specialist throughout the first round, fans were just waiting to see the KO that would end Nogueira’s night. Just as victory seemed so close, defeat came crashing down on Cro Cop when in the second round Nogueira finally got the fight to the ground long enough to secure an armbar victory and putting Cro Cop back on the waiting list for a title shot.

Two wins over Ron Waterman and Yoshihisa Yamamoto got Mirko back to his victorious ways and primed for the 2004 Pride Grand Prix. Fedor and Nogueira were both entered in the tournament and it seemed that a showdown was set at some point during the Grand Prix. Unfortunately, for Mirko Cro Cop, American wrestler and Ohio State grad Kevin Randleman had other ideas.

Going into the fight, Randleman was a heavy underdog but no one was able to tell him that. Cro Cop had the definitive advantage standing so most fans thought the only way that Randleman had a prayer to keep from getting decapitated from one of Mirko’s famous high kicks was to take the fight to the ground. Instead, Randleman stood up with Cro Cop long enough to land an overhand punch that floored the Croation sensation and with a few more shots landed the referee had no choice but to step in and stop the fight and Kevin Randleman walked out with one of the biggest upset victors in MMA history.

And with the loss, Mirko Cro Cop’s chance at a title shot against Fedor Emelianenko went by the wayside one more time.

Coming back from a defeat doesn’t seem to bother Cro Cop as he again went through his next string of opponents with relative ease. Included in his victories was a vicious KO of Fedor’s brother, Aleksander Emelianenko. Landing a wicked high kick to the 6’6″ Russian, it was if Cro Cop was sending a message to his brother that he was next. A win over highly ranked Josh Barnett followed and then Cro Cop was able to get his revenge over Kevin Randleman when he tapped him out with a guillotine choke on New Year’s Eve 2004. A KO win over Randleman’s mentor, Mark Coleman was the last step before Cro Cop was to get his shot at Fedor and the Pride heavyweight title.

The fates seemed against Cro Cop again when Fedor re-injured his thumb and put a fight between the two off for a third time. Rumors floated throughout the MMA world that the fight would actually happen, but now Cro Cop has been announced to face off against one of Fedor’s sparring partners, Ibragim Magodemov on June 26 th . Magodemov is listed coming into this fight at only 6’0″ tall which will give Cro Cop a significant reach advantage, and the odds seem overwhelmingly in Cro Cop’s favor, but his luck getting to Fedor seems very bad so far.
Cro Cop is sure to be ready for this fight, but should not overlook his opponent hoping to get his title shot in August. Mirko doesn’t seem like a fighter that believes in superstitions, but if there is a jinx in MMA, getting shut down right before a title shot seems to be a bad dream that Cro Cop just can’t wake up from.