This Saturday night (March 19) at UFC 128: "Shogun vs Jones," former Pride open-weight grand prix champion Mirko Filipovic will take on Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 10 runner-up Brendan Schaub.
"Cro Cop" will look to return to the Octagon off a poor performance against former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir. The former K-1 kickboxer and mixed martial arts (MMA) legend has seen his ups and downs in his career and really needs a big win to get himself back on track.
As for "The Hybrid," he is currently riding a three-fight win streak and was last seen defeating former division heavyweight number one contender Gabriel "Napao" Gonzaga.
In the build up to UFC 128, Schaub stated how he's a huge "Cro Cop" fan but won't be starstruck come fight night as he prepares to take another step up the heavyweight rankings.
Can the legendary Croatian return back to his old glory? Or will his younger opponent increase his stock in the division and add a legend to his MMA resume?
Check out our preview after the jump:
Record: 7-1 overall, 3-1 in the UFC
Key Losses: Roy Nelson (TUF 10 Finale)
How he got here: Schaub suffered his first career loss at the hands of Roy Nelson at the TUF 10 Finale and that kind of loss can do one of two things for a fighter; it can either A) motivate you to prove you're still worthy of being in the UFC or B) leave fighters with a weird sense of being content. For Schaub, it was choice A, and he managed to rebound with knockout victories over Chase Gormley and Chris Tuchsherer. In Schaub's last performance at UFC 121, he managed to earn a unanimous decision over the once highly regarded Gabriel Gonzaga.
How he gets it done: The Team Grudge member needs to back up "Cro Cop" on the feet and not let him find his rhythm. As great a kickboxer as Filipovic is, the Croatian has previously had trouble with fighters who can march forward and cut him off. Also, if he can use his size to put "Cro Cop" against the fence and pressure him, he can effectively wear him down and nab the victory.
Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic
Record: 27-8-2 overall, 4-4 in the UFC
How he got here: Filipovic will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the greats after being an elite K-1 kickboxer who made a successful transition to MMA by winning the Pride open-weight title in 2006. The problem is, "Cro Cop" has not been the same fighter he once was and has shown that father time may have caught up with him. Although he's shown some signs of life with a win over Pat Barry, the Croat has looked almost lifeless in his losses to Cheick Kongo, Frank Mir, and Gabriel Gonzaga. However, as a huge fan of "Cro Cop," I'm clinging to the hope that he's motivated and ready for this fight, as he's said in the build up to UFC 128.
How he gets it done: "Right kick cemetery, left kick mausoleum." The Croatian needs to show the fire he once had and get after Schaub with his tremendous kickboxing. Based on Schaub's past fights, it's not likely for him to shoot, so he's facing the perfect opponent stylistically to return to his winning ways. While "The Hybrid" has shown improvements in his striking, "Cro Cop" still possesses a violent arsenal of kicks and Schaub would be the perfect opponent to remind everyone of that.
Fight "X Factor:" Like I've said before, the real "X Factor" in this fight is how hungry "Cro Cop" is to get after it. No offense to Schaub, as he has shown real promise as a heavyweight, but if he easily defeats Filipovic in devastating fashion, or if "Cro Cop" can't pull the trigger in the fight, it will be evident again that he may need to put an end to his once illustrious career.
Bottom Line: As a huge fan of "Cro Cop," I'm still hopeful he can win this fight. Schaub is very talented, and if he can get the job done against an opponent that really guts it out and fights hard, he deserves all the credit in the world. Right now, it's difficult to say which "Cro Cop" will show up, but one way or another I still believe that we'll be treated to fireworks as Schaub is an aggressive striker that will fight hard and Filipovic always has the potential to knock someone out with his patented head kicks.
Who will come out on top at UFC 128? Let us know!