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Calling The Shots: Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Mirko Cro Cop 2

UFC will make its debut in Poland this Saturday with a Fight Pass card emanating from the Kraków Arena. The main event is a rematch from eight years ago as Mirko Cro Cop looks to avenge his most devastating loss against Gabriel Gonzaga. While this fight boasts no divisional relevance, the emotional storyline of the bout makes this an intriguing affair.

Mirko Cro Cop signed with the UFC in 2007 when the company was just starting to break into mainstream consciousness. Many believed he was the heavyweight attraction that would lead them to the promise land, and it seemed like a sure thing considering his résumé in PRIDE and winning that promotion’s Open Weight Grand Prix.

Cro Cop won his Octagon debut with ease. The consensus was that one more fight would seal the deal, leading to a monstrous pay-per-view showdown against the champion at the time, Randy Couture. Enter Gabriel Gonzaga, who was a step up in competition, but was still expected to fall victim to the Croatian.

Instead of accepting his role, Gabriel Gonzaga flipped the script with a shocking head kick that knocked out Cro Cop, prompting a violent fall to the canvas with his leg twisting upon impact. Gonzaga prevented what would have been one of the biggest money fights in MMA history and ended up challenging Couture instead before losing in the 4th round.

Cro Cop was a promoters dream. He possessed good takedown defense, coupled with fiercely accurate striking, which produced a plethora of highlight reels showing head kick knockouts. If you’re a professional wrestling fan, the way Cro Cop lost to Gonzaga would be equivalent to someone beating Steve Austin with his own signature maneuver, the Stone Cold Stunner.

It’s difficult to break down a rematch by referring to the previous encounter since it happened so long ago. The way Gonzaga won that fight was so spectacular, people forget that he dominated the entire bout. Cro Cop has never been the same since this fight as lackluster wins and devastating losses erased the Terminator-like aura he once had.

Gonzaga remained in the hunt after losing his title bid to Couture, but his last two losses to Stipe Miocic, and especially Matt Mitrone, have called into question whether or not his best days are behind him.

In a recent interview on The MMA Hour, Cro Cop said he believes he is a better fighter than Gonzaga and that “Things will be different this time.” This has sparked some excitement because this sounds like he’s motivated which in theory, means we could see the return of the Cro Cop that we used to know.

On fight night, Cro Cop’s plan of attack will not deviate from the norm. He is a striker at heart with some potency left in his attack. While he could catch Gonzaga, his physical decline will make him easier to takedown which plays heavily in the Brazilian’s favor.

If Gonzaga gets him down, he should be able to maintain top position and cause enough damage to call for a referee stoppage. While Gonzaga’s loss to Mitrone was scary and could be a sign of things to come, I don’t think he will play the same game this time around.

The Pick: Gabriel Gonzaga via TKO in the 3rd Round

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Atlee Greene

Atlee Greene is a contributor to Camel Clutch Blog and host of The Bodyslam Podcast. His other work can be found at Gerweck.net, ForcesofGeek.com, Whatculture.com and his own personal blog. He can be found on Twitter @AtleeGreene

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