Nearly eight years after “The Head Kick Heard ‘Round the World” altered the trajectory of his mixed martial arts career, Mirko Filipovic finally has his revenge.
The heavyweight known as “Cro Crop” rallied for a stunning third-round technical knockout of Gabriel Gonzaga (16-10, 11-9 UFC) in the UFC Fight Night “Gonzaga vs. Cro Cop 2” headliner at Krakow Arena in Krakow, Poland on Saturday, as he finished off his Brazilian rival with a barrage of elbows and hammerfists on the ground 3:30 into the period.
Gonzaga made his name by knocking out the beloved Croatian with a first-round head kick in their initial meeting at UFC 70. With the win, Filipovic (31-11-2, 5-6 UFC) improves to 6-0 all-time in rematches, a record that includes wins over the likes of Kazuyuki Fujita, Wanderlei Silva, Josh Barnett and Satoshi Ishii.
For a while, it appeared that Cro Cop’s string of success in return bouts had reached its end. The ex-Pride Fighting Championships titlist appeared disinterested as Gonzaga grounded, mounted and bloodied him over the course of the fight’s first 10 minutes.
At that point, Filipovic’s most memorable moment occurred when he whiffed on a high kick in round two, drawing an audible gasp from those in attendance.
Filipovic seized momentum in round three when he denied a Gonzaga takedown attempt near the fence and staggered the Brazilian with a pair of vicious elbows to the temple. “Napao” attempted to regain his bearings by controlling his opponent in full guard, but it wasn’t long before Filipovic was able to bust Gonzaga wide open with a series of forceful elbows. Cro Cop continued his assault from there, switching to hammerfists and finally forcing referee Leon Roberts to call a halt to the contest.
“I feel great. It was five rounds. Two rounds doesn’t make you win or lose – just stay calm,” Filipovic said. “We believed that the third round would be the last one.”
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Manuwa Victorious After Year-Long Layoff
It wasn’t his customary manner of victory, but Jimi Manuwa did enough to capture a unanimous verdict (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) against Jan Blachowicz in a slow-paced light heavyweight clash. It was Manuwa’s first Octagon appearance since a loss to Alexander Gustafsson in March 2014.
According to “Poster Boy,” the layoff could have been even longer.
“I almost didn’t make it to the fight. I had a bad injury a few weeks ago,” Manuwa said. “I didn’t pull out – it was a big option for me. I made it happen.”
After two closely-contested frames that played out primarily in the clinch, Manuwa (15-1, 4-1 UFC) put his stamp on the fight in round three. The heavy-handed Brit shifted gears over the course of the final five minutes, landing the most significant punches of the fight during sporadic bursts of aggression. Blachowicz (18-4, 1-1 UFC) had his moments as well, particularly when connecting with his jab, but the Pole was unable to land much of note when initiating the clinch.
Manuwa, who went the distance for the first time in 16 professional bouts, has his sights set on an upgrade in competition for his next Octagon appearance.
“Before this fight I wanted Top 10 opponents,” he said. “I’m gonna start picking off the Top 10. [I’m planning] on making my way to the top.”
Pawlak Earns Verdict Over Westcott
Pawel Pawlak weathered a grinding attack from “The Ultimate Fighter: Nations” cast member Sheldon Westcott to garner a unanimous verdict in a featured welterweight encounter. All three judges saw the bout 29-28 for the Lodz, Poland, native, who went the distance for just the third time in his professional tenure.
Westcott (8-3-1, 0-2 UFC) did his best to give Pawlak (11-1, 1-1 UFC) as little room to operate as possible. The 30-year-old Canadian consistently attempted to muscle his foe against the cage with clinches, but that approach gradually took its toll on his stamina.
Momentum shifted early in round two, when Pawlak briefly dropped Westcott with knee. The Pole had most of the bout’s most significant offense from there, both through effective ground-and-pound from above or in exchanges when he was able to create space.
Moroz Armbar Stuns Calderwood
Joanne Calderwood entered UFC Fight Night with dreams of a strawweight title shot. Maryna Moroz had other ideas.
With reigning 115-pound queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk looking on from her cageside seat, Moroz shocked the heavily favored Calderwood (9-1, 1-1 UFC), tapping out the Scottish muay Thai ace with an armbar 1:30 into the opening frame. After the victory, Moroz (6-0, 1-0 UFC) engaged in a shouting match with the champion, an exchange which elicited boos from the Polish audience.
“I want to be the champion,” Moroz said in the cage. “[Jedrzejczyk] is fighting extremely well. That’s why I want to fight with her.”
Moroz took a significant step in that direction with her finish of Calderwood, who had emerged from “The Ultimate Fighter 20” as one of the promotions top strawweight talents. The Ukrainian known as the “Iron Woman” showed no fear, as she backed Calderwood up to the fence with a punching combination during an early exchange. From there, Moroz then jumped guard and hunted for an armbar. Calderwood attempted to free herself from the predicament, but Moroz was able to straighten out her foe’s limb to earn the surprising tapout, her fifth career triumph via armbar.
Edwards KOs Baczynski in 8 Seconds
One punch was all that Leon Edwards needed.
The 23-year-old Brit authored -- unofficially, at least -- the second-fastest finish in UFC welterweight history, knocking out Seth Baczynski just eight seconds into their 170-pound encounter. A straight left hand sent Baczynski (19-13, 5-6 UFC) crashing to the canvas, and Edwards (9-2, 1-1 UFC) landed two follow-up blows on the mat before referee Grant Waterman could intervene on the American’s behalf.
Edwards’ decisive blow came as a counter to a step-in knee from Baczysnki, who has lost three straight in the Octagon and five of six overall.
“I know Seth was a tough guy. I timed my left hand to catch him, and the shot landed,” Edwards said. “I’ve been studying him all camp; I’ve been watching him. He always leaves himself open … I knew I could catch him with it.”
Duane Ludwig scored an unofficial four-second knockout of Jonathan Goulet in a welterweight matchup at UFC Fight Night on Jan. 16, 2006. While that victory is listed by the Nevada Athletic Commission as an 11-second finish, the UFC nonetheless recognizes it as the quickest in promotion history.
Relentless Fabinski Downs McLellan
Bartosz Fabinski overwhelmed Garreth McLellan with his relentless wrestling to capture a unanimous decision victory (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) in preliminary middleweight tussle. A native of Warsaw, Fabinski has won five straight fights. South Africa’s McLellan sees a six-fight streak come to an end.
Fabinski (12-2, 1-0 UFC) landed takedowns in every round and gradually wore down the bearded “Soldier Boy” with his unyielding pressure to drain all drama from the bout. In addition, Fabinski battered McLellan (12-3, 0-1 UFC) with elbows from above at the end of round two and punctuated his triumph with several hard knees from the front headlock position in the waning moments of round three.
Moraes Holds Off Newcomer Lebout
Sergio Moraes was all smiles as usual, as the Brazilian captured a hard-fought unanimous decision against debuting Frenchman Mickael Lebout in a preliminary welterweight scrap. The three cageside judges submitted identical 29-28 scorecards in favor of Moraes (8-3, 3-1 UFC), who has won four of his last five bouts.
The opening two rounds were competitive and contested primarily on the feet, as Moraes curiously abstained from implementing his grappling advantage. “The Panther” finally played to his strength in round three, when he followed up a punching combination with a takedown and proceeded to control Lebout (13-4-1, 0-1 UFC) for the duration of the round. While Moraes was unable to submit his foe, it was arguably the fight’s most significant moment.
Meza Outgrapples Stasiak
MMA Lab Representative Yaotzin Meza utilized slick grappling and heavy top control to earn a unanimous verdict (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) over Damian Stasiak in a bantamweight affair. The defeat snaps a five-fight winning streak for Stasiak, who fought at BAMMA 19 just two weeks ago.
Meza (21-9, 2-2 UFC) had to survive some adversity in round one, when Stasiak (8-3, 0-1 UFC) appeared to hurt him with a spinning back kick to the body before taking his back and cranking on a rear-naked choke that had Meza gurgling. The Arizonan made it to the horn, however, and spent the final two frames outgrappling his foe, transitioning from one dominant position to another to earn the nod from the judges.
Hamilton Outlasts Omielanczuk for Decision
Anthony Hamilton had just a little bit more left in the gas tank than Daniel Omielanczuk. The American known as “Freight Train” pulled away with a strong third round to earn a unanimous decision triumph (29-28, 29-28, 29-27) in a battle of tiring heavyweights.
Both fighters had their moments early, as Hamilton (14-4, 2-2 UFC) controlled round one with diligent work from top position, while Omielanczuk (16-5-1, 1-2 UFC) turned the tide in the second frame with solid defensive wrestling and brief flurries of ground-and-pound. The Pole didn’t have much left for the final stanza, however, as Hamilton dominated the last five minutes with dirty boxing and knees to the body from the clinch before sealing the triumph by landing a takedown with approximately 30 seconds remaining.
Albu Guillotines Badurek
Aleksandra Albu submitted Izabela Badurek with a guillotine choke in a preliminary women’s strawweight clash. The end came 3:24 into round two, as the Russian capitalized when Badurek left her neck exposed on a double-leg takedown attempt. The Polish fighter tapped out in a matter of seconds once the hold was secured.
“I worked on this with my coach for quite some time,” Albu said through a translator. “The plan was to control the fight and be disciplined about it.”
Albu’s advantage in hand speed was evident throughout, as she bloodied her opponent’s nose with crisp punches. Badurek (5-3, 0-1 UFC), meanwhile, attempted to slow the fight down by forcing clinches against the fence. However, Albu (2-0, 1-0 UFC) was largely able to hold her own with the physical Pole in close quarters.
Ray Pounds Out Bandel
Steven Ray’s short-notice Octagon foray was a successful one, as he earned a technical knockout triumph against Polish submission specialist Marcin Bandel in a lightweight duel. Ray, who replaced the injured Jason Saggo on less than two weeks’ notice, brought an end to the contest with a barrage of unanswered left hands from back mount 1:35 into round two.
While Bandel (13-4, 0-2 UFC) entered the 12 submission triumphs to his credit, it was Ray’s (17-5, 1-0 UFC) work on the mat that proved to be the difference. In round one, the Dinky Ninjas representative managed to avoid Bandel’s leg lock tries before securing a tight arm-triangle choke as the frame expired. A stout left hand from Ray at the outset of round two had Bandel shooting for a takedown out of desperation. Ray stuffed that effort, and later took full mount and pounded away from above for the finish.
Lapilus Decisions Lee in Debut
Superior striking and solid takedown defense carried Taylor Lapilus (9-1, 1-0 UFC) to a unanimous decision triumph over Rocky Lee (3-1, 0-1 UFC) in a battle of debuting featherweights. All three cageside judges submitted 30-27 scores in favor of the Frenchman, who has won four straight fights.
Punching combinations, knees to the body and low kicks were the preferred weapons of choice for Lapilus against his grappling-minded foe. Lee, a semifinalist on “The Ultimate Fighter: China,” was often predictable with his level changes and was only briefly able to get Lapilus to the mat. In standup exchanges, the Taiwanese fighter offered very little offense of note, as Lapilus was consistently able to control the range.