Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic will face former Strikeforce champion Muhammed Lawal in the 2016 Rizin Fighting Federation open weight grand prix quarterfinals at Rizin 3 on Dec. 29 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. The promotion on Monday announced the pairing, along with another quarterfinal bout that pits the returning Heath Herring against Amir Aliakbari.
Filipovic will carry a four-fight winning streak into the match. The 42-year-old heavyweight last competed at Rizin 2 on Sept. 25, when he submitted Hyun Man Myung with a first-round arm-triangle choke. Nearing the end of a remarkable career that includes wins at the 2012 K-1 World Grand Prix and the 2006 Pride Fighting Championships open weight grand prix, Filipovic has secured 29 of his 32 professional victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission. His list of victims includes Wanderlei Silva, Josh Barnett, Mark Coleman, Igor Vovchanchyn, Kazushi Sakuraba, Kevin Randleman and Satoshi Ishii.
A three-time NCAA All-American wrestler at the University of Central Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, Lawal has won eight of his past nine bouts. The 35-year-old American Top Team representative last fought at Bellator 169 on Dec. 16, when he took a unanimous decision from the aforementioned Ishii in Dublin.
The semifinals and final of the 2016 Rizin Fighting Federation open weight grand prix will be contested at Rizin 4 on Dec. 31. The other quarterfinals feature Tsuyoshi Kohsaka vs. Baruto Kaito and Valentin Moldavsky vs. Szymon Bajor.