Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipović just turned back the clock in Krakow, Poland, earning a TKO win over a respected opponent for the first time in years.
And, he showed us something new, besides.
The 40 year old Croatian fighting legend, long removed from his glory days in PRIDE and K-1, made good on his promise to avenge his 2007 loss to Gabriel “Napão” Gonzaga today — stopping the Brazilian in a round three technical knockout in his first UFC bout since 2011.
But he used elbows, and not his vaunted left high kick, to set up the win.
Cro Cop, now 32-11-2 (with one no-contest) in his MMA career, struggled with Gonzaga to begin — giving up several takedowns to the jiu-jitsu standout and often looking timid in standup exchanges. But in round three, a big elbow strike in the clinch turned everything around.
A dazed and bloodied Gonzaga fell, and took a few more punches and elbows on the mat — before the referee called a halt to the action at 3:30 of the stanza.
The result stood in stark contrast to their first encounter, where the grappler Gonzaga shocked the fight sports world by scoring a high kick knockout over Cro Cop, MMA’s most feared striker.
In fact, in an interview earlier this week, Cro Cop had mentioned that elbows should be banned from MMA. Maybe a result like this will change his mind.
Asked what’s next in his career, Cro Cop revealed little else than he would “take a shower tonight,” and that he would return to the Octagon eventually.
Gonzaga, who fights out of Massachusetts in the US but hails from Brazil, drops to 16-10 with the loss.
In the co main event, Jimi Manuwa (15-1) of England defeated Poland’s Jan Blachowitz (18-4) by unanimous decision in a listless three round affair.
Earlier in the evening, Scotland’s Joanne Calderwood (9-1), ranked among the top 115 lb female fighters in the world, was stunned by unheralded Ukrainian Maryna Moroz (6-0). Calderwood, looking uncharacteristically slow and hesitant, took several punching combinations before succumbing to a first round armbar.