Despite win at UFC 110, Mirko Cro Cop's title aspirations remain a long shot


(Image courtesy Mark Nolan Getty images)

Dubbed as a sort of "Pride FC Reunion" event, UFC 110 featured three fighters who built forever-lasting legacies in fight rings all over the "Land of the Rising Sun." And each one of them was fighting to prove that they still remain, in one way or another, a relevant competitor under the UFC banner.

The main event was contested by the second greatest heavyweight the sport has ever seen and a white-hot rising superstar. It was clear from the opening bell that Minotauro Nogueira would be late to the punch in every exchange and simply didn't have the speed to keep up with the younger, more explosive Velasquez.

The co-main event saw one of the most menacing and ferocious strikers in the history of MMA take on a reality show veteran from the U.K who was on a mission to rebuild his image. And though the decision appeared to be a bit controversial, "The Axe Murderer" can now lay claim to a 1-0 record in his new weight class.

The first Pride superstar to grace the Octagon down under was Mirko Cro Cop in the opening bout on PPV. Originally scheduled to face "Big" Ben Rothwell, Australia's own Anthony Perosh was tapped as a late replacement due to a stomach virus that forced Rothwell to withdraw.

Though Mirko opened a vicious cut over the right eye of Perosh with an elbow forcing a doctor's stoppage in between the second and third round, to say Cro Cop channeled his former self in the fight would be a serious stretch.

Like we've seen in his last couple fights, Mirko remained hesitant to fully attack the overwhelmingly less talented striker in Perosh. And again, we saw very few of the leg kicks that made the man one of the most feared fighters in the game.

Of the three legends competing last night, it was Cro Cop who needed a convincing performance the most. While many observers were left unimpressed, Mirko himself feels as though he's back in the hunt for a title shot.

"I can say I was satisfied with my performance. I didn't fight my original opponent. He canceled the fight. Perosh jumped in, and I'm grateful to him for that. He showed great courage and guts. He came to fight. But where I'm at in the heavyweight division, I don't know. I believe I belong in the top, so we'll see in the next fights. It depends on the next fight."

While the early signs are pointing to a fight with his original opponent for UFC 110, Ben Rothwell, Cro Cop will need more then just a win over the former IFL champ to be considered amongst the division's elite.

And with questions swirling around his desire, or lack thereof, to continue to compete, Cro Cop feels as though he is rededicated and ready for another run at the top.

"I changed the way I used to train. I spent four weeks in Amsterdam at Vos Gym training with a new coach, Ivan Hippolyte, a legend of Muay Thai. And this was the first time in my career I came to the location of the fight two weeks before the fight to adapt. I always underestimate so many things.

I'm a very experienced fighter, but even in Japan I came two days before. In my last fight in the States, I came two days before. They needed to wake me up before the fight. My coach needed to put ice on my back to wake me up. So I just underestimate so many things. Of course there is fuel left in me, but you need to keep training more to keep in the game."

So assuming he can remain awake during training sessions leading up to his next fight, is Cro Cop's career going anywhere but down?

Like his two Pride counterparts competing at UFC 110, it is fairly obvious that the Croatian striker has peaked in the fight game, but does he have enough juice left to even be competitive against the top guys in the sport? Do you think he really even cares anymore at this point? Lets hear some thoughts, Maniacs.

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