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Opportunity knocked: A look at personnel change in the UFC

cro cop ufc
Neil Sedaka said it best: Breaking up, is hard to do!

Andrei Arlovski and Mirko Cro Cop, the flotsam and jetsam of the UFC heavyweight division, are now being jettisoned to distant promotions to try and recapture the mythos that preceded their recent shortcomings.

At least "The Pitbull" has a chance to go out with a win by garroting Jake O'Brien at UFC 82. In fact, with a dominating performance, Zuffa may even offer him a respectable contract.

Cro Cop, however, must exit the UFC with his tail between his legs, clinging to the onion skin that is his Japanese legacy.

A year ago I salivated at the thought of these two gifted strikers facing off inside the Octagon. Now I anticipate their futures with a sort of jaded apathy.

A fighter's success has to be about more than just wins and losses. Josh Haynes once told me he would gladly settle for an 0-30 record if every fight had the crowd on its feet.

So often a promoter can sell a fight on hype alone. What a fighter's done and who he's done it against are of paramount importance. But once the cage door closes there is nothing left but two men and the truth of the moment.

Some fighters understand the urgency of that moment. In a recent interview with MMAmania, Diego Sanchez explained the anxiety of a three round fight: A mere 15 minutes to overcome a man whose sole purpose is to destroy you.

But win or lose, there is still opportunity.

A fight like Huerta vs. Guida at The Ultimate Finale 6 will guarantee your employment. A fight like Herring vs. O'Brien at Fight Night 8 may not.

EliteXC honcho Gary Shaw recently remarked how Dana White "ruined" Brock Lesnar after the pasty-faced goliath came up short in his debut at UFC 81.

Mark this one in your books folks, because I'm going to bat for Dana White.

From a fans perspective, I don't think anything about Lesnar's debut was ruined by losing. As we originally reported, Brock Lesnar had a hand in requesting this fight.

And Brock Lesnar lost.

That doesn't have anything to do with Dana White or the booking of Joe Silva. It has to do with the submission defense of Brock Lesnar and the resilience of Frank Mir, who saw his opportunity in a herculean ham hock.

I do understand Shaw's philosophy. If you shell out boku bucks for a marquee name, you should at least get your money's worth.

But this isn't the WWE. You can't script a fighter's greatness.

Nor can you tiptoe your way to the championship.

I have more respect for Brock Lesnar in defeat to Frank Mir than I would have had in victory over a fighter such as Ruben Villareal (sorry, Warpath). And in truth I am excited to see the evolution of Lesnar if he is sincere about sticking around.

I think a promoter's first instinct may be to protect his headliners. Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva was bigger while they were both riding win streaks. But the stakes were even higher after both suffered back-to-back losses.

And the fight still delivered.

Does Dan "Hollywood" Henderson's loss to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 75 make his championship match against Anderson "The Spider" Silva at UFC 82 any less exciting?

Not a chance. But that's because "Dangerous" Dan knows how to deliver. His five round war with Rampage was the epitome of Octagon excitement.

And I think that is the lesson for Arlovski and Cro Cop. And perhaps a bit of foreshadowing for Brock Lesnar.

So talented yet so timid in recent fights, Arlovski may have to pack his tent and try greener pastures. Hopefully he's able to rediscover his will to engage, because (stay or go) it may be the only thing that returns him to greatness.

Cro Cop, on the other hand, bitter and full of excuses, is back in the land that made him famous. His time in the UFC can be described in many ways, but for me the most fitting is opportunity lost.

The Eddie Sanchez fight at UFC 67 was supposed to be an opportunity for the Croatian to get his feet wet inside the cage. Instead it may have lulled him into a false sense of security.

His blase approach to the intricacies of the Octagon cost him against Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 70, and the fallout seemed to carry into his match with Cheick Kongo at UFC 75.

Shrugging off the UFC as a place he never really belonged, Cro Cop has once again started anew, this time at the newly-formed DREAM with hopes of finding the same success he had back in PRIDE FC.

I don't think a change of scenery is going to do any good without a change of perspective to accompany it.

Opportunity knocks in almost every fight. Warriors like "Minotauro" Nogueira and Randy "The Natural" Couture know how to seize it. And that is why they've brought such honor and prestige to the UFC heavyweight title.

They understand that inside the cage, there is no past and there is no future. There is only the present. There are no absolutes, only opportunities.

Godspeed, Mirko Cro Cop.

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