This weekend's big fight is not in the UFC or even MMA - it's in kickboxing. Mirko Cro Cop returns to the kickboxing ring for the first time in 9 years as he faces fellow K-1 veteran Ray Sefo in the main event of "Cro Cop Final Fight." The show airs live from Croatia this Saturday at 1:00 p.m. ET / 10:00 a.m. PT and can be watched on DIRECTV, The Fight Network in Canada, Fight Now TV, or through an online live stream. Click here for all the details, and come back tomorrow to discuss the show live here on Bloody Elbow.
While Cro Cop vs. Sefo is clearly the focus, this is a nice overall card with some of the world's top kickboxing talents. Here, we'll preview the top 3 fights, starting with the main event.
MIRKO CRO COP FILIPOVIC vs. RAY SEFO
The big story here is of course Cro Cop's return. While most MMA fans know of his legendary past in K-1 and kickboxing, not everyone knows the details. Cro Cop started in K-1 back in 1996, but it was in 1999 that his legenda was born. In his 4th K-1 fight, Cro Cop landed his now infamous head kick KO on the unsuspecting Ricky Nickolson. From there, Cro Cop surged with stoppage wins over Mike Bernardo, Musashi, and Sam Greco. He made it to the 1999 Grand Prix finals, losing to the legend Ernesto Hoost.
For the next 2 years, this was the story of Cro Cop's K-1 career. He would get the big knockouts over lower to mid tier opposition, but could never beat men like Hoost and Andy Hug to take a top spot. Starting in late 2001, he began the transition to MMA. Interestingly, that's also arguably his period of greatest success in K-1.
From the start of 2002 to his kickboxing retirement in 2003, Cro Cop went undefeated with wins over reinging GP champ Mark Hunt, future champ Remy Bonjasky, and Bob Sapp, who at the time was essentially undefeated in kickboxing, and was seen as unstoppable. Cro Cop shattered Sapp's orbital bone with a punch, leaving the big man writhing on the canvas. Sapp's career has never recovered. And with that, Cro Cop walked away from the sport.
Now, after a highly successful Pride run, and a less successful UFC run, he's back, possibly to close out his career where it all began.
More in the full entry.
While the focus is on Cro Cop, his opponent is no gimme. Ray Sefo is an all time great in K-1 who has close to 100 pro fights in his 15+ year career. Known for his flashy style, iron chin, and KO power, Sefo has been in some of K-1's greatest battles - his 2001 fight with Mark Hunt ranks among the sport's very best. Like Cro Cop, he's a former Grand Prix finalist, losing to Hoost in 2000. He's slowed on kickboxing in recent years, and is now working in Las Vegas as part of the Xtreme Couture team. There, he has worked on his own MMA career (2-1) and served as boxing coach for top names like Vitor Belfort. This will be his first kickboxing fight since late 2010 when he lost to Tyrone Spong.
As excited as I am to see Cro Cop, I'm equally excited to see him face Sefo. And to be honest, I suspect Sefo is going to spoil the party here. Even in both men's peak years, Sefo was the superior kickboxer, and with his better condition, and his more recent time in the ring, I think it's his fight to lose. Should be a great one though.
DANIEL GHITA vs. SERGEI LASCENKO
Since about 2009, Ghita has been considered one of the clear top Heavyweights rising up the ranks, but it wasn't until recently that he really began to live up to that billing. His last fight was a fantastic KO victory over Hesdy Gerges that won him the It's Showtime Heavyweight crown. In today's landscape, you could make a strong case that with that win, Ghita became the world's #1 Heavyweight. He's known for his devastating legkicks, but has developed his boxing game lately as well.
Lascenko had great success in 2009, making it to the finals of two separate K-1 tournaments (and losing in one of those finals to Ghita). He struggled with some conditioning issues, and had a rough 2010, but came back very strong last year after changing teams - he now works with the famed Mike's Gym, home to Melvin Manhoef and Badr Hari among others. He's now on a 5 fight win streak that includes victories over Dzevad Poturak, Roman Kliebl, and Ismael Londt in two impressive tournament wins. He has his work cut out for him here, but he's a very game fighter who will bring the action to Ghita.
DZEVAD POTURAK vs. ISMAEL LONDT
Poturak is the kind of fighter that is everything right about combat sports. He's a tough veteran, who, at this stage in his career, loses more than he wins, but is absolutely guaranteed to put on an entertaining fight. He's a showman with tough hands, a hard chin, and an iron will. He does hold wins over Ghita and Manhoef, but those times have passed. Chances of him winning here are not great, but again, will he put on a show? You better believe it.
Londt is one of the new generation of fighters who have stepped up in K-1's absence. He has 3 years worth of experience that includes some sizable names on his resume. That 2011 loss to Lascenko was a small setback, but Londt is ready to bounce back. He's also a fun fighter with some devastating highlight reel KO's to his credit, which makes him a perfect opponent for Poturak.
Those are the highlights, but there's plenty more action on the card. Hope you will join us tomorrow afternoon!
Full card is as follows:
Mirko Cro Cop (16-7, 11 KO) vs. Ray Sefo (56-21-1)
Igor Jurkovic (29-3, 23 KO) vs. Freddy Kemayo (60-18, 43 KO)
Daniel Ghita (39-7, 29 KO) vs. Sergei Laschenko (29-9, 12 KO)
Mladen Brestovac (36-8, 25 KO) vs. Mourad Bouzidi (65-15, 32 KO)
Dzevad Poturak (47-16, 30 KO) vs. Ismail Londt (27-3, 12 KO)
Mladen Kujundzic (8-3, 5 KO) vs. TBA
Agron Preteni (56-10) vs. Guy Pacome Assi (11-6, 5 KO)
Stefan Jelicv (6-1, 6 KO) vs. Michael Duut (15-5, 7 KO)
Ivan Posavec (19-4) vs. Miran Fabjan (34-5)