In a battle that most fans let out a collective sigh of frustration in thinking about, former PRIDE fighter and head-kicking highlight reel Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic (26-7-2-1, 3-3 UFC) will try to regain what once made him great as he battles former K-1 kickboxer turned professional MMA fighter Patrick Barry (5-1, 2-1 UFC) in heavyweight action. CroCop has been the epitome of a monumental failure in the UFC as he's only managed to defeat Mostapha Al Turk, Anthony Perosh, and Eddie Sanchez in the Octagon while being destroyed by Cheick Kongo, Junior Dos Santos, and Gabriel Gonzaga, often in brutal fashion. Barry is relatively green in mixed martial arts, but he did knock out another K-1 convert in Antoni Hardonk at UFC 104 in his most recent appearance.
What can I say about this fight? The match-up itself isn't frustrating, but the disappointment of Mirko "CroCop" certainly is where the frustration stems from with fans. Strangely, fans continue to rally behind the once-great finisher from the PRIDE era. Certainly, his connection with fans to the memories of PRIDE fuel that allegiance, but I think some of the mental issues that Mirko has faced and been honest about have given him a connection to fans as well. Nobody likes to see an aging legend suddenly fail and dive into obscurity, but a loss on Saturday night will likely end a career for Mirko.
There are some positives here. Mirko can probably link his problems in the kicking department to his knee surgeries. Much like the mental problems Frank Mir had in his return following his motorcycle crash, Mirko has yet to mentally overcome the fact that his knee is now back to health. He's hesitant in using his kicks in fights for fear his knee will give out, and he almost never sets up his head kick with a steady diet of body and leg kicks.
That probably doesn't sound like a positive, but at least it's a tangible problem that Mirko can work on by training and regaining strength in that knee. The intangible problem relies in overcoming the thought that his knee may give out at any moment, and that's probably something much tougher he'll need to overcome. It's a huge negative, in my mind, but he must use his kicks if he intends to frustrate Barry.
Mirko is up against a wall. It's possible that most of his problems are caused by his lack of confidence in his abilities due to injuries, but without ever having been 100% in past fights -- it's tough to fathom Mirko coming into this one with supreme confidence that he can perform to the fullest of his abilities.
Barry doesn't offer an unbelievable brand of kickboxing. His kicks are powerful enough to hurt Mirko, but Mirko has always been very good at using his footwork to move in and out of danger from kicks. Barry does, however, have proven knockout power that not only stems from his kicks, but from his punching as well.
Strangely, I have a feeling that Barry may also be thinking about heading to the ground, and that might possibly be the worst idea possible. While I think Barry has probably improved, Mirko is still very dangerous against a green opponent like Barry on the ground. He has the knowledge to reverse positions, power out of danger, and scramble with flurries of power to change the tide of the fight.
Barry isn't immune to his own steady diet of leg kicks either. Antoni Hardonk was successful in frustrating Barry for at least the first round at UFC 104 with a dose of kicks to the legs, and Mirko can be successful without eating a heavy overhand for his troubles. He has the elusiveness and footwork to move in and out of danger, and if he can mix his strikes and push his combinations -- Barry is going to have a rough night on the canvas.
I'm not at all confident in Mirko in this fight, but... I have to give one last hurrah to Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic. If he loses to Patrick Barry, I'll say my goodbyes. If he wins, I'll still know that we'll never see the great Mirko of the past, but I can, at the very least, enjoy a "happy to have won" CroCop before his career comes to an end.