Mirko Filipovic has been fighting professionally for about 14 years now.
From 1996-2003, Filipovic was a kickboxer who fought primarily in K-1, and from 2001 to the present day, he has been a mixed martial artist.
While he was a kickboxer, he gained a huge following and was nicknamed Cro Cop, because of his profession in Croatia as a police officer, and the nickname stuck to him like glue.
He amassed a 16-7 record through kickboxing and defeated the likes of Bob Sapp, Remy Bonjasky, and Peter Aerts. For those of you that followed the career of Mirko, you already knew he was well known for his kicks.
Filipovic wasn't modest about his talents either. He infamously said, "Right leg hospital, left leg cemetary."
While this statement was just an exaggeration about Cro Cop's kicks, it did sometimes seem like he killed his opponents in the ring.
But, getting back on topic, Cro Cop began fighting in the Pride Fighting Championships due to the fact that he was unhappy with the salaries in K-1 and he wanted a challenge.
Surprisingly, Mirko transitioned to MMA well while fighting over in Japan.
He compiled a MMA fight record of 21 wins, four losses and two draws from 2001-2006.
Despite what people knew about him when he came into MMA, they were still taken by surprise at how he utilized his kicks.
The way he would whip those legs around without even winding up, it was just incredible to watch. It was like his legs turned to rubber while they were in motion.
Before joining the UFC, he won fights over Heath Herring, Wanderlei Silva, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, and Josh Barnett three times.
While fighting in Pride though, the only men he lost to were Fedor Emelianenko, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Kevin Randleman, and Mark Hunt.
Looking at his resume pre-UFC, it was safe to assume he would do well in the UFC at the time he signed up with the Zuffa promotion.
Seeing as how the top guys in the heavyweight division at the time were Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski, Randy Couture, and the up and coming heavyweights at the time were Cheick Kongo, Gabriel Gonzaga, and Brandon Vera.
In 2007 at UFC 67, Filipovic made his debut against hot prospect Eddie Sanchez. Mirko won by TKO in the first round easily due to the fact that Sanchez thought he could win a stand up fight against the Croatian.
While the fight was impressive enough and should have made Cro Cop the number one contender for Randy Couture's title after UFC 68, the UFC decided to give Cro Cop one more warm up fight.
This time it was against relatively unknown Brazilian Heavyweight, Gabriel Gonzaga.
Gonzaga was brought into the UFC and didn't look impressive during his UFC debut (but it was discovered that Napao had some trouble training after his wife lost one of their twins during child birth).
But before his fight with Cro Cop, Gonzaga was riding a five fight win streak in MMA and three in the UFC. At the time, this was good enough to be granted a shot at Cro Cop for number one contendership, seeing as how weak the division was at that current point in time.
Obviously though, we all know that Gonzaga was put up in front of Cro Cop as a sacrificial lamb for Cro Cop to become the number one contender.
This however was not the case. To the surprise of us all, Mirko lost to Gabriel via head kick in the first round.
My favorite point of that night had to be when Joe Rogan yelled out, "Cro Cop just got Cro Copped!"
After this fight, Gonzaga fought Couture and lost by TKO in the third round.
While Napao showed a lot of heart in the fight and broke Couture's arm with the same kick he used on Cro Cop, The Natural just outclassed Gonzaga the entire fight with his dirty boxing and Greco-Roman wrestling.
As for Cro Cop, we all learned that after his loss to Gonzaga that he never trained himself for the UFC cage. This is a big factor when transitioning from a ring to a cage.
But after some time to recover, the UFC gave Filipovic another opponent that was supposed to be an easy win for Cro Cop to get back into title contention.
This man was...Cheick Kongo.
To the surprise of us all again, Cro Cop lost. But in a kickboxing match. After this loss, Cro Cop left the UFC for Japan.
While in Japan, Mirko won two easy fights and had a no contest with The Demolition Man, Alistair Overeem.
With nowhere else to go, Mirko returned to the UFC. Since returning, Mirko has gone 2-1. Despite winning two fights, his wins were not impressive.
The loss however was a different story. He lost to current top five UFC heavyweight Junior Dos Santos.
This fight was simply put, a stand up battle. Mirko's kickboxing versus Dos Santos' boxing.
For the entire fight Junior pushed the pace and bull rushed Cro Cop with lightning fast combinations and hard punches that the Croatian could not handle.
In the third round, Junior caught Filipovic with a punch that hit Cro Cop in the eye directly instead of his eye socket.
Because Cro Cop was in pain and couldn't see, he submitted and Dos Santos was declared the victor, adding another name to his impressive resume.
Cro Cop rebounded with a win over Australian fighter Anthony Perosh at UFC 110, but the win is nothing to brag about since Cro Cop's original opponent was IFL star Ben Rothwell and he succumbed to some ailment just days before the fight.
Now, Mirko is returning to the Octagon at UFC 115 against young heavyweight kickboxer Pat "HD" Barry.
This is what everyone is calling Cro Cop's last Hurrah. As much as I hate to say it, I agree.
Cro Cop has just gotten older and it has hit him hard. He can still be a force in MMA, just not at heavyweight.
The only way I see Cro Cop still having a career in MMA is if he fights in catchweight fights or drops down to light heavyweight.
Tomorrow night, this heavyweight showdown isn't going to go down like Dana White has been hyping it.
It will either be a boring decision victory or a one-sided beating.
It is possible for Cro Cop to get the win because it will be a kickboxing match, which is his specialty and he does have a lot more experience than his much younger opponent.
But, this is highly unlikely due to the fact that Pat Barry is faster, stronger, more agile, and has youth on his side. The cards are easily stacked in his favor.
Honestly, I didn't want to see this fight happen because I like both guys and this will be do or die for both.
If Cro Cop loses, people will want him to hang up the gloves. If Barry loses, the UFC will most likely cut him from their roster because his record with them will be 2-2.
I would have liked to have seen the original fights of Cro Cop-Rothwell and Barry-Yvel.
But, this is what the UFC gave us.
So, let's all enjoy either the rebirth of Mirko Cro Cop, or the blossoming of Pat "HD" Barry.
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