Mirko Filipovic in his prime was as imposing as any fighter in history, from his signature shorts and cropped hair to his robot-like demeanor and devastating high kicks.
“Cro Cop” won the 2006 Pride Fighting Championships Open Weight Grand Prix, the 2012 K-1 World Grand Prix and the 2016 Rizin Fighting Federation Open Weight Grand Prix, and he remains one of the most talked-about and referenced martial artists of all-time. The resurgent Filipovic will carry an eight-fight winning streak into his Bellator MMA debut on May 25, when he meets former International Fight League champion Roy Nelson in a rematch at Bellator 200 in London. Nelson knocked out “Cro Cop” under the Ultimate Fighting Championship banner six-plus years ago.
This installment of The Film Room puts Filipovic’s outstanding career under the microscope:
Despite conceding an early takedown to Ron Waterman at Pride 27 on Feb. 1, 2004, Filipovic stayed composed and landed some solid punches from his back. “Cro Cop” went on the offensive when the two men returned to their feet, launching his signature left kick upstairs. While it only grazed Waterman’s head, Filipovic followed up with punches and sent his counterpart to the canvas. He then moved in for the kill, finishing Waterman with a series of soccer kicks 4:37 into the first round.
Filipovic brought his “left leg, cemetery” mantra to life when he faced Igor Vovchanchyn at Pride Total Elimination 2003. Both men entered the ring with momentum, Vovchanchyn having beaten Bob Schrijber and Filipovic having defeated Heath Herring. “Cro Cop” lunged at the Ukrainian with a volley of quick lefts as they headed into the second minute of the first round. Filipovic then wound up and unleashed a left high kick that found its intended target. A stunned Vovchanchyn hit the deck, where he was met with a burst of hammerfists that netted the stoppage 1:29 into Round 1 and immortalized “Cro Cop” on Pride Fighting Championships highlight reels.
Like Fine Wine
“Cro Cop” has retained his knockout capabilities into his 40s, and they were on display once again at Rizin Fighting Federation’s New Year’s Eve event in 2017. Japanese journeyman Tsuyoshi Kosaka stood across from him at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Filipovic wowed the audience, first with a short right that wobbled Kosaka. “Cro Cop” moved to the UFC veteran’s back, bombarded him with heavy punches and forced him to the ground. Filipovic continued his assault until Kosaka’s corner threw in the towel 62 seconds into Round 1.