The UFC raised a lot of eyebrows when they resigned 40-year-old former PRIDE superstar Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic (30-11-2, 1NC) to the heavyweight division. His best days were clearly behind him, symbolized by a highlight reel kick loss to Brazilian Gabriel Gonzaga (16-9-0) in only his second UFC fight.
It remains the the enduring memory of his UFC career. Until perhaps, tomorrow afternoon.
At UFC Krakow, Cro Cop has a chance to replace that memory with a memorable finish of his own against the very man who inflicted it.
Does he have enough at this stage to do it?
Welcome back to The Crossfire.
MMA Crossfire’s Kenai Andrews checks in with his thoughts on the main card matchups.
JOANNE “JOJO” CALDERWOOD (9-0-0) VS MARYNA “THE IRON WOMAN” MOROZ (5-0-0)
Andrews: Moroz is making her UFC debut and having watched a few of her XFC fights, looks to be a good challenge for Calderwood. She is dangerous on the ground, and can take some punishment too. But Calderwood is a different level of fighter on the feet. And there are the UFC jitters she must overcome. If Calderwood can keep the fight on the fight and utilize her Muay Thai, then it should be a decision win. If it goes to the ground, or Calderwood underestimates Moroz, I would not be shocked with a Moroz upset.
Andrews Prediction: Joanne “JoJo” Calderwood via unanimous decision.
PAWEL PAWLAK (10-1-0) VS SHELDON WESTCOTT (8-2-1)
Andrews: Pawlak is making his UFC debut, while Westcott lost in the TUF Nations Final to Elias Theodorou. This is his second chance in the big dance and I expect the Wild Rose native to take full advantage and score a TKO win. As long as he doesn’t gas himself out early, he will get it done.
Andrews Prediction: Sheldon Westcott via TKO.
JIMI MANUWA (14-1-0) VS JAN BLACHOWICZ (18-3-0)
Andrews: Blachowicz made a statement in taking out Ilir Latifi, signaling the regimen of Polish MMA that has come to bloom with strawweight champ Joanna Jedrejzyck as the rose petal. Manuwa lost to top light-heavyweight in Alex Gustafsson, but has his game improved? He’s still a tough come-forward brawler with powerful strikes – but not much else. That won’t be enough in this one but target practice for the fleeting feet and strikes of Blachowicz.
Andrews Prediction: Jan Blachowicz via TKO.
GABRIEL GONZAGA (16-9-0) VS MIRKO “CRO COP” FILIPOVIC (30-11-2, 1NC)
Andrews: This is Cro Cop’s moment for redemption. He will be motivated, but I don’t think his body will be able to withstand Gonzaga’s assault. Gonzaga has been slumping lately and this should be a relatively simple win for him, provided he goes about his business. Take the starch out of Cro Cop with strikes and the ground. Be aggressive, but don’t try to hit the home run again early. Cro Cop needs the cemetery kick to take this one home.
Andrews Prediction: Gabriel Gonzaga via unanimous decision.