UFC heavyweight fighter Eddie Sanchez (8-0) is in for a night of pain on February 3 when he goes up against uber-talented mixed martial arts star Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic (21-4-2) at UFC 67.
The Croation kickboxer has done nothing but get better since making his MMA debut in 2001, culminating with his winning performance at the 2006 PRIDE FC Grand Prix tournament.
Cro Cop is smart, his takedown defense is world class, his striking and submissions are exceptional, and his left high kick is lethal — no exaggeration.
He's the best fighter in the UFC ... and he hasn't even fought inside the Octagon yet.
So, when Dave Doyle over at FoxSports.com recently asked the following question in his blog, it made me think a little more about Cro Cop's UFC debut:
Why is Eddie Sanchez the first UFC opponent for Mirko Cro Cop?
And, he offered up this response:
No one has told me this, but this is just a hunch: Sanchez is a strong, wild puncher. In his UFC debut on the undercard of UFC 63 against Mario Neto, the two slugged it out in the first and then Sanchez took it in the second with a devastating overhand right.
Styles make fights, and UFC wants to show off Mirko's skills to an American audience before they put him into the title picture. With Sanchez, there's a strong chance this turns into a standup slugfest, maximizing the opportunity for one of Mirko's highlight-reel left kicks. And at the same time, Sanchez, while not an A-list fighter, isn't a tomato can, either, and has a puncher's chance.
I guess anyone has a puncher's chance – just ask Kevin Randleman (16-12). The former UFC champion knocked Cro Cop out cold back at PRIDE Total Elimination in 2004 with a brutal combination of strikes on the ground.
Sanchez, however, is no Randleman. And, that doesn't bode too well for the Californian who made his UFC debut at UFC 63 against Mario Neto (9-4).
Filling in for Gabriel Gonzaga as a last minute replacement, Sanchez went on to win via knockout in the second round.
In an interview with AdCombat.com, here's how Sanchez sized himself up prior to the Neto fight:
You can expect to see one of the most athletic heavyweights you've ever seen. I have heavyweight power with welterweight speed. Fists will be flying and bodies will be dropping. I am a jiu-jitsu fighter but I love to strike.
He added this a little later on:
I don't look at this as a "coming out party." I am looking forward to bringing some excitement back into the heavyweight division. I am going in to put on an exciting fight that's the bottom line. Punch or get punched, I will not be part of a boring fight!
Fists will fly and bodies will drop on February 3 ... that's certain.
It's just too bad for ole' Eddie that he will be the pour soul opposite Cro Cop at his coming out party.
For what it's worth, I give Sanchez all the credit in the world for taking this fight. If I were as green as Sanchez and Joe Silva called to ask me to fight Cro Cop, I'd tell him to go pound salt. There's just no way he can win -- none.
Hopefully for him it will be quick and painless.
Check out a recent video interview with Sanchez here.