Preview: PRIDE “Final Conflict” Part III — Fedor vs. “Cro Cop”

Fedor Emelianenko vs. Mirko Filipovic

Aug 26, 2005
FILIPOVIC: Mirko Filipovic (Pictures), or “Cro Cop” as he’s known, is a Croatian Special Forces officer. He is a former I.K.B.F. World heavyweight full contact champion, K-1 Grand Prix ’99 finalist and a K-1 World Grand Prix 2000 in Fukuoka finalist.

He trains with Fabricio Werdum (Pictures), Igor Kolakusic, Igor Pokrajac and the rest of the Cro Cop Squad. Filipovic has a 40-5 amateur boxing and 12-5 professional boxing record. He also carries a 16-2-2 record in MMA and will make his 18th appearance (13-2-2) in the PFC.

“Cro Cop” made the move from K-1 kickboxing to MMA in 2001 and debuted against Antonio Inoki disciple Kazuyuki Fujita (Pictures) at the K-1 Andy Hug Memorial in Japan. It was a brief debut, as he connected a knee that sliced open Fujita’s melon in just 40 seconds.

He faced PFC’s current matchmaker Nobuhiko Takada (Pictures) at PRIDE 17 in a special-rules fight that went the distance, an automatic draw. Later, another special-rules bout saw him battle PRIDE middleweight champion Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) at PRIDE 20. The rules allowed for quick stand-ups and shortened rounds and resulted in another automatic draw. Had it been fought under full MMA rules, it is likely the outcome would’ve been different and gone in Silva’s favor.

The PRIDE: Shockwave show saw Filipovic take on Japanese legend Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures) under full PFC rules, where punch from the bottom broke Sakuraba’s orbital bone in the second round. Fililpovic beat Fujita again in a boring rematch and faced top heavyweight contender Heath Herring at PRIDE 26.

Herring looked overwhelmed and was stopped with strikes in the first round. Filipovic went on a 4-1 run, knocking out MMA iron man Igor Vovchanchyn (Pictures), UFC veteran Ron Waterman (Pictures), RINGS veteran Yoshihisa Yamamoto and Mexican wrestler Dos Caras Jr. His only loss was to former PRIDE heavyweight champion Rodrigo Nogueira at the PRIDE Final Conflict show.

Filipovic fought well in the first round but was submitted by “Minotauro” in the second, failing to win the up-for-grabs PFC interim heavyweight championship.

“Cro Cop” fought Kevin Randleman (Pictures) in the opening round of the PRIDE Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament and was shockingly knocked out. An unimpressive decision win over Hiromitsu Kanehara (Pictures) was followed with a pair of consecutive knockouts over Shungo Oyama (Pictures) and Aleksander Emeliananko.

He scored an unusual submission win over open-weight King of Pancrase Josh Barnett (Pictures) at PRIDE 28. Barnett was injured in the conflict and hopefully a rematch is in the works. At last New Year’s Eve show, Filipovic exacted his revenge over Randleman and submitted him via guillotine choke early in the first round.

Riding high on the strength of five straight victories (two by KO), Filipovic knocked out former UFC heavyweight champion and the first PFC Heavyweight Grand Prix champion Mark Coleman (Pictures) early in their fight at Pride 29.

Then at the 2005 Critical Countdown show, “Cro Cop” blasted yet another member of Fedor’s Red Devil Fight Club. Ibragim Magomedov (Pictures) had a good record going in but he didn’t have many fights against what would be considered top competition. He never really pushed Filipovic and fell like most opponents, to strikes. This time it was a kick to the body.

The match simply served as a warm-up for “Cro Cop” while he waited for Fedor’s hand to heal. And now, healed hand or no, the time has come.

EMELIANENKO: Sambo stylist Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures) is 28-1 in MMA and trains with his brother Aleksander, Arman Gambaryan, Roman Zenstov and rest of the Red Devil Fight Club.

Fedor is the RINGS 2001 World Title Series heavyweight class champion and RINGS 2002 World Title Series absolute weight class champion as well of the PFC heavyweight champion and holder of numerous sambo and judo championship titles.

Fedor spent time fighting in Russia (undefeated in eight fights) and competing in sport grappling competitions before making his international MMA debut. This will be his 12th bout under the PRIDE banner.

Emelianenko showed his fighting dominance in RINGS Japan, taking decision victories over Ricardo Arona (Pictures) and Renato Sobral (Pictures) and stopping TUF Season 2 entry Kerry Schall (Pictures) and UFC veteran Christopher Haseman. His “loss” to Tsuyoshi Kohsaka (Pictures) was a fluke. At the opening bell they both threw strikes. TK caught him with a forearm/tip of elbow to the temple and it opened him up.

He made his PRIDE debut against Semmy Schilt (Pictures) and took a decision over the giant, but the bout didn’t showcase his full arsenal. He returned to batter top contender Heath Herring at PRIDE 23 and took the title from Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Pictures) at PRIDE 25.

Fedor submitted Bushido veteran Egidijus Valavicius at RINGS Lithuania and was back at PRIDE 26 against Kazuyuki Fujita (Pictures). Fujita rocked Fedor on the feet and it looked like an upset could be in the making. But like a true champion, Emelianenko battled back, pounded Fujita and submitted him via choke in the first round.

At the PRIDE FC Total Elimination show in ’03, UFC veteran Gary Goodridge (Pictures) lasted little more than a minute with Fedor. Then UFC and PRIDE tournament champion (and Fedor role model) Mark Coleman (Pictures) seemed to have Emelianenko in trouble early but a slick armbar by the Russian ended the contest after just two minutes.

Coleman’s protégé Kevin Randleman (Pictures) unleashed a suplex that would’ve finished lesser men, but there was no stopping Fedor. He shrugged off the slam and rolled over to submit Randleman early in the first round at the ’04 Critical Countdown show. At PRIDE Final Conflict in August ’04, Fedor discarded Naoya Ogawa (Pictures) in the semis but the title bout with Nogueira had to be stopped after a headbutt opened to a nasty cut on Fedor’s head.

The combatants met again four months later at the Shockwave show on New Year’s Eve and Emelianenko dominated the contest. The history between these two is far from over and with a submission win over Filipovic, look for “Minotauro” to stay in the title picture for quite some time.

Fedor fought a questionable bout with Tsuyoshi Kohsaka (Pictures) at PRIDE Bushido 6. I describe it as “questionable” because it did nothing to help Emelianenko’s injured hand and put the title bout with Filipovic in further jeopardy. Fedor got his revenge over Kohsaka via doctor’s stoppage but the injury persists and has been a topic of conversation leading up to this battle.

MY PICK: Fedor.

Injured or not, I still think Emelianenko takes the victory here. We’ve seen him in trouble before and he finds a way to win. I have to give Mirko his props though. He has learned excellent takedown defense and acquired enough submission skill to stay out of trouble.

Had the Barnett battle gone longer, we would’ve seen a better display of Filipovic’s abilities on the mat. (No disrespect intended but Randleman, Coleman and Magomedov didn’t really push Mirko to display that aspect of his game.) So Fedor is a huge test in that respect.

If Emelianenko’s hand is truly injured, this will more likely be a ground battle anyway. That will allow the Russian to pick and chose his strikes rather than be caught in a potentially dangerous stand-up war. Fighters will tell you it is easier to develop good hands to compliment your ground game than it is for a striker to really learn how to grapple and apply submissions.

Is “Cro Cop” ready to fight on the mat with Fedor? That could be the biggest question we get answered Sunday night. I think this one goes like Nogueira-Filipovic without Fedor taking so much abuse. If Fedor brings this to the mat, I don’t see them getting back up. I feel it will be Emelianenko by TKO (likely from knees to the head) in the first round.
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