clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Winner's Circle! UFC Fight Night 64 preview for 'Gonzaga vs Cro Cop 2' in Poland

What could victory mean for Mirko Cro Cop, Gabriel Gonzaga, Jimi Manuwa, and Jan Błachowicz ahead of their respective headlining bouts this weekend (Sat., April 11, 2015) at the Krakow Arena in Krakow, Poland? ponders the consequences below.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

What's next?

That simple question is likely the most often pondered about in the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA). Rarely do fans, pundits, or even fighters revel in the present, instead focusing on what is next for an athlete who just picked up a victory inside the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Octagon.

UFC makes its first trip to Krakow, Poland this weekend (Sat., April 11, 2015) for an exclusive Fight Pass card littered with UFC debuts and fighters you have likely never heard of. Thankfully, the main and co-main event of the evening feature intriguing bouts, including a heavyweight rematch pitting an MMA legend against the man who knocked him out nearly eight years ago.

In the main event, PRIDE legend Mirko Filipovic returns to the Octagon in hopes of exacting revenge on former No. 1 contender Gabriel Gonzaga. "Napao" pulled off arguably the most shocking finish in the history of the sport when he kicked "Cro Cop's" consciousness into oblivion way back at UFC 70.

The co-main event features an intriguing light heavyweight battle between two contenders looking to cement themselves as legitimate threats in the 205-pound division as Poland's own Jan Błachowicz welcomes Jimi Manuwa to Krakow.

With plenty on the line for all four marquee competitors this weekend in Poland, let's take a glimpse into the future and predict what a win could potentially do for their careers moving forward.

Mirko Filipovic

The legend returns to the Octagon, but at age 40, Saturday's main event means little other than "Cro Cop" potentially avenging one of his worst career losses.

I remember way back at UFC 70 how nearly everyone pegged the Croatian to handily defeat Gabriel Gonzaga en route to a title fight against Randy Couture, and I can recall my excitement at the proposition that Cro Cop could in fact be fighting a fellow legend in "The Natural" just months down the line following a sensational victory over the Brazilian.

Of course by now, you know that Cro Cop did not even come close to victory that fateful night in England, instead getting a piece of his own medicine courtesy of an absolutely hellacious right head kick from "Napao."

After the knockout heard 'round the world, Cro Cop never fully recovered, racking up only three more Octagon victories alongside another five losses. Four years after leaving UFC following a three-fight losing streak, the Croat returns for revenge.

Let's not kid ourselves.

Cro Cop is not going to fight for a UFC title before he retires, and he likely won't even be relevant in UFC's paper-thin heavyweight division.

My two cents?

Enjoy the moment on Saturday to watch one of the greatest MMA strikers of all time show off his skills inside the Octagon, and potentially witness a shining moment in his illustrious career if he indeed can pull out the victory over Gonzaga.

Gabriel Gonzaga

Much like Filipovic, I find it incredibly unlikely for Gonzaga to even sniff a UFC title shot anytime soon, and I would be utterly shocked if he ever gets back to the top of the mountain at 35 years old.

"Napao" is coming off a two-fight losing streak, but that doesn't make the Brazilian any less dangerous. Here's a startling fact for you: Gonzaga has earned a finish in all 12 of his UFC victories; In eight career UFC losses, the Brazilian has been finished in six fights.

Gonzaga's staying power has been nothing short of remarkable in nearly a decade with UFC, and "Napao" is still putting on exciting shows for fans worldwide.

I expect Gonzaga or Cro Cop to get finished this weekend, but after that, not much will come of this main event.

Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

Jan Błachowicz

Where the main event lacks in relevance, the UFC Fight Night 64 co-main event could provide the 205-pound division with a desperately needed fresh contender.

Jan Błachowicz returns home this weekend, and with a win over Jimi Manuwa, the former KSW champ will definitely crack the top 15.

How high the Pole moves up the ladder is to be determined, but a finish over the tough Brit will likely earn him a top 10 spot or at the very least another crack at a top 10 opponent.

Six of the top 10 fighters in the light heavyweight division have fought and lost to UFC champ Jon Jones, so another two wins for Błachowicz could make him an unheralded title contender in early 2016.

First things first, Blachowicz needs to put on a performance against Manuwa this weekend.

Jimi Manuwa

Welcome back Jimi!

The last time the "Poster Boy" stepped into the Octagon, former No. 1 light heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson handed Manuwa his first career loss with a vicious (technical) knockout win in the second round.

Over a year later, the Brit returns in a pivotal co-main event that will either cement or derail his No. 9 ranking in the light heavyweight division.

As mentioned previously, Manuwa is one of only four fighters in the top 10 to not get a crack at Jon Jones, so if he wants that opportunity, he needs to defeat Błachowicz in Poland.

At 35 years old, Manuwa is not getting any younger and his athletic heyday is most certainly waning. Does that mean he can't pull out two or three victories in a row en route to a title shot? Absolutely not.

Once again, the road to the title begins in Krakow this weekend, and Manuwa has a stiff test in front of him.

For more information on UFC Fight Night 64, including the full fight card, results, news, and more, click here.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Mania Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Mania