Friday, 15 August 2008

The Stagnation of Cro Cop

Just under two years ago, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic was riding high on a wave of euphoria. He had gained his first major MMA title by winning the Pride FC Open Weight Grand Prix and all he had to do was beat a bulked up Wanderlei Silva (who at that point still had the aura of an unstoppable wrecking machine, and was still Pride's 205lbs champion) and the ever dangerous and consistent Top 5 Heavyweight Josh Barnett.

In the same night.

Some people aren't that keen on the tournament format (I have my complaints which I may write about another time), but beating two top tier fighters in the same night is still no mean feat. A rematch with Heavyweight kingpin Fedor Emelianenko to end the year seemed inevitable.

However with rumours already emerging on the financial difficulties Pride FC and parent company Dream Stage Entertainment were having (thanks in no small part to losing a network television deal with Fuji due to the discovery of Yakuza ties and possible influence in the organisation) as well as Fedor being out for an unknown length of time due to injury (a busted toe of all things), Cro Cop took the initiative and headed for greener pastures.

Rumours of Cro Cop jumping ship to significantly bolster the failing Heavyweight ranks of the Ultimate Fighting Championship were soon confirmed and many believed the definitive number #2 ranked Heavyweight would cut through the UFC and become champion before going on to face Fedor in a unification bout (official or otherwise).

Unfortunately things didn’t go according to plan.

Seemingly a combination of arrogance, apathy and lack of preparation resulted in a 1-2-0 UFC career that probably cost the UFC more money then it made for them. The Croation K1 stand out was sliding down the ranks and out of fans’ interest. Cro Cop had Cro Flopped.

With no immediate use for him especially considering his base salary per fight, UFC happily ended their arrangement with Filipovic so he could fight elsewhere, build up his confidence and get some ring time with a promise to return and redeem himself.

Fast forward a few months to today and it seems he is in no rush to do so. A win over a last minute replacement that is my very definition of a can (someone who is setup to be knocked down) Cro Cop doesn’t look like he may fight again this year. Turning down a grappling match with Roger Gracie is fine considering the stupidity of such a booking, but the cancellation of a match with revived Heavyweight Allistair Overeem at Dream 6 has not only caused the ire of The Demolition Man but many fans alike.

It is possible that this is the promoter’s doing, and it has been suggested that Dream may have financial problems (despite these rumours being debunked if you look outside of North American sources), but for Cro Cop to have fought once in 12 months isn’t the sort of frequency that will ingratiate him to fight fans or promoters. Put it this way; UFC aren’t clamouring to get him back even with the sorry state their Heavyweight division is in.

If Cro Cop is serious about getting his spark back, and is serious about redeeming himself and becoming UFC champion and rematching Fedor he should be doing whatever it takes to do so, whether that is finding a different promotion to fight in or as some believe take a significant cut in pay. Through both his K1 career and his stints in Pride and UFC, he can certainly afford to do so until he is back on track and his value approaches what it once was.

Mirko Cro Cop has the ability to be one of the most exciting, marketable and best Heavyweight fighters out there. While often silent and stoic he speaks virtually fluent English and can be marketed as a machine of a fighter who can knock people out with both fists and both feet. As for his continued development as a Mixed Martial Arts fighter he certainly can get access to the proper resources to build the weaker aspects of his game to compliment is world class striking.

But in the end it is up to him.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

St. Pierre: No More Worlds to Conquer?

One of the most famous quotes attributed to Alexander The Great, one of world history's most famous and successful military leaders, spoke of how after surveying the extent of his empire he wept at the prospect of having no more worlds to conquer. Alexander had done all this before the time of his death at just 32 years old.

A similar prospect may soon be approaching 27 year old UFC Welterweight King Georges St. Pierre after such a brutally one sided victory over legitimate top contender Jon Fitch. By the end of what can only be described as a 25 minute assault I was left wondering the legality of the damage inflicted.

People in the know knew how tough a fighter Jon Fitch is and how he often outlasts opponents by grinding them down until they can take no more but no one outside of die-hard fanboys expected him to be so easily overwhelmed.

Georges St. Pierre at this point seems to be so far ahead of anyone else in his weightclass in Mixed Martial Arts (not just the UFC) that I honestly can not see anyone else who will pose a significant challenge providing GSP maintains this level of focus, ability and skill.

Elite XC's Welterweight Champ Jake Shields excels on the ground and is perhaps only bettered by the ever fluctuating BJ Penn, but there is no way I see him taking GSP to the ground when considering his wrestling and takedown defense. GSP will destroy Shields on the feet.

UFC's explosive Muay Thai based fighter Thiago Alves may pose problems to GSP on the feet but I see GSP taking Alves down at will and keeping him there with a barrage of strikes and maybe even finish by TKO or submission.

Alves next opponent Diego Sanchez who is becoming as well rounded as they come will be out-muscled and out-gunned by a simply more physically powerful and gifted GSP.

WEC champ Carlos Condit, while a scrappy fighter and a gamer with excellent ground skills will be wrecked wherever a fight with GSP takes place.

It looks as if BJ Penn will get his wish of a rematch and while his boxing has improved with a great lead jab that alone will not be enough for the varied assault St. Pierre brings to the table. Penn's mobility coupled with skill on the ground has always been his strongest point but outside of a slip on a laminated mat sponsor Penn does not have the offensive wrestling to get GSP to where he'll do the most damage. Penn will survive early on, but even with improved cardio that works for him at Lightweight, GSP will torture him over 5 rounds and may well finish him late in the 4th or 5th.

Outside of his weightclass the most significant fight GSP can have is against the destructive Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva who has finished every opponent he has faced in his UFC tenure thus far. GSP won't be able to muscle around the deceptively strong Spider though with technique and momentum he will be able to take him down if he can grab him.

However with such a dangerous guard that can envelop fighters with lanky limbs and an ever improving ability to scramble and get back to the feet, any respite where the fight ends up back on the feet is critically dangerous to St. Pierre who as we all know can be knocked out. While someone like Alves has unquestioned power in his strikes, Silva is pin-point accurate and can capitalise on any mistake made.

But as far as the Welterweight Class goes it seems Georges St.Pierre is without equal at this moment in time and possibly for a couple of years to come.

"When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer." - Unknown

Matt Hughes 'Bored' of GSP Vs Fitch fight?

So apparently Matt Hughes was at UFC 87 this past Saturday in Minneapolis Minnesota, presumably as a VIP guest to watch the fights and interact with the fans.

Anyway, Matt Hughes likes to keep a blog on his website and his comments on the main event between Georges St. Pierre Vs Jon Fitch for the Welterweight title caught my interest:

"The last fight of the night was Georges and Fitch. Georges didn’t look as big as he has before and he seemed like he had gotten tired from the first round. Fitch had the game plan of countering Georges and you just can’t do that. You can’t counter a quicker fighter. To be honest, halfway in the third round I got up and walked out of the arena and went to my hotel. The fight wasn’t the most exciting and I wanted to get out of there before everyone else was getting up to leave."

OK, he may have a point in as much a one sided beat-down is not as exciting as a close back and forth fight that could be won by either man at any moment, and leaving early to avoid the rush would make sense for the average spectator but I would have thought Hughes had been paid to be there and owed it not only to the company but also the fans who may have wanted some interaction with a UFC legend.

Leaving during the main event between fighters who have beaten him or beaten opponents who have beaten him just seems a bit like sour grapes to me.

I'm sure some Hughes fans will disagree though.