Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic Torches Amir Aliakbari, Kaido Hoovelson to Win Rizin Grand Prix

By Brian Knapp Dec 31, 2016
Mirko Filipovic penned the latest chapter in his remarkable career, and it was a doozy.

“Cro Cop” blew away Amir Aliakbari and Kaido Hoovelson in less than three minutes combined to win the 2016 Rizin Fighting Federation open weight grand prix at Rizin 4 on Saturday at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Filipovic stopped the monstrous 6-foot-6, 400-pound Hoovelson (3-1) with a knee strike to the body 49 seconds into the first round of their semifinal and then cut down Aliakbari (5-1) with punches 2:03 into Round 1 of the tournament final.

Still going strong at age 42, Filipovic (35-11-2) has rattled off seven consecutive victories, all of them finishes, since his November 2013 submission loss to Alexey Oleynik.

Father Time was not as kind to another aging veteran, as former Shooto champion Tatsuya Kawajiri submitted to a rear-naked choke from Kron Gracie in the featherweight co-feature. The end came 2:05 into Round 2, as Kawajiri (35-11-2) tapped for the first time in more than six years. A 2013 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist, Gracie (4-0) has touched off his professional MMA career with four straight submissions.

Meanwhile, the well-traveled Hideo Tokoro rebounded from his Sept. 25 defeat to Gracie to submit Erson Yamamoto with a first-round armbar. Yamamoto (1-2) bowed out 79 seconds into Round 1. The 39-year-old Tokoro (34-29-2) has won twice in his last three outings.

Finally, Hayato Sakurai made a triumphant return to the ring following a three-year absence, as he disposed of Wataru Sakata (11-14) with second-round ground-and-pound. In his first appearance since September 2013, Sakurai (38-13-2) brought it to a close 2:37 into Round 2.

In other action, Aliakbari earned a split decision over Valentin Moldavsky (5-1) in their grand prix semifinal; Rena Kubota (3-0) took care of Hanna Gujwan (1-1) with a kick to the body 2:47 into the third round of their atomweight affair; Andy Nguyen (4-3) submitted Miyu Yamamoto (0-2) with an armbar 4:42 into the first round of their strawweight clash; Kizaemon Saiga (3-2) stopped Dillin West (0-1) with punches 2:03 into the first round of their flyweight encounter; Gabi Garcia (4-0) dismissed Yumiko Hotta (5-5) with punches 41 seconds into the first round of their openweight pairing; and Tenshin Nasukawa (2-0) submitted Dylan Oligo (0-3) with a guillotine choke 37 seconds into the second round of their flyweight tilt.
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