Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipović: Top 5 MMA Finishes

Mirko Filipović, aka “Cro Cop”, born 10 September, 1974, is a retired, Croatian heavyweight mixed martial arts legend with a record of 38-11-2-(1).

“Cro Cop” (short for “Croatian Cop”), now 46, earned his nickname because of his former job in an Anti-Terrorist Unit, Croatia’s elite Police Special Forces tactical unit. With such a high-pressure job facing life or death situations, it was no wonder that he was able to transfer his skills to high-level MMA.

Throughout his MMA career, Cro Cop fought in several organisations such as Pride, UFC, Dream, Rizin and Bellator, racking up a legendary resume along the way.

With a black belt in Taekwondo, Cro Cop’s eye-opening wins include those over fighters such as Wanderlei Silva, Alexander Emelianenko, Josh Barnett, Kevin Randleman, Mark Coleman, Gabriel Gonzaga and Roy Nelson.

Mirko holds some extraordinary achievements such as: being the only person to win K-1, Pride, and RIZIN Grand Prix Championships; the most wins through kicks in Pride history (8); the most head kick knockouts in Pride history (4); the most first round finishes in Pride history (15); tied (Wanderlei Silva) for the most finishes in Pride history (16).

Cro Cop’s fighting style within MMA is best evidenced by his achievements in kickboxing as he is a former K-1 Grand Prix Champion (2012) and multiple-time runner up as well as International Kickboxing Federation (IKF) champion.

Furthermore, Cro Cop excelled in amateur boxing with a record of 48-8; this background in stand-up fighting was clear to witness in his MMA career and is responsible for 30 (KO/TKO) of his 38 wins – with a 79% chance of a win being by KO/TKO

However, the “Croatian Sensation” is most well-known for one of MMA’s most iconic moves, the Cro Cop left high kick that has left many a fighter a mere victim. Cro Cop’s power is somewhat mystical, and his legend lives on from stories told by Josh Barnett and Fabricio Werdum

However, despite the larger majority of wins being via KO, Cro Cop does own 4 submission victories which can be accredited to his work with MMA icon Fabricio Werdum, who helped him bolster his grappling skill.

Cro Cop explains that Werdum lived with him for two-and-a-half years in 2004 and was estimated to have been tapped by him over 600 times. Werdum jokingly stated if he were one day submitted by Cro Cop, he would go home to Brazil. One day in training, Cro Cop got lucky and managed to submit the BJJ great and true to his word, Werdum flew back to Brazil the same day.

Despite Cro Cop being in the special forces and having a 20-year MMA career, it would be easy to think of him as a cold, stone-hearted person; however, that is not the case at all as he’s one of MMA’s funniest characters.

His personality can be shown by his prank on Mauro Ranallo and some of his other funny moments below.

“Cro Cop” spent the majority and prime of his career fighting in Pride from 2001 until 2006 and defeating big names as mentioned, as Wanderlei Silva, Alexander Emelianenko, Josh Barnett, Kevin Randleman and Mark Coleman. During his time at Pride, Cro Cop also battled against other major names such as Mark Hunt, Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira and most famously, Fedor Emelianenko, which was voted as 2000’s Fight of the Decade among MMA royalty.

Under Pride, Mirko earned himself two Knockout of the Year awards in 2003 and 2006 and defeated Josh Barnett to win the 2006 Pride, World Open-Weight Grand Prix Champion. After this, Mirko debuted in the UFC in 2007, defeating Eddie Sanchez in the first round but went on to lose his next two UFC fights and fought his next fights in Dream before returning to the UFC, two years after leaving.

Mirko Cro Cop trains his 18 year old son Ivan

Mirko Cro Cop trains his 18 year old son Ivan

“Cro Cop” went on to win 3 out of his next 4 fights but hit turmoil as he went on a 3-fight losing streak and left the UFC again to fight in the Inoki Genome Federation defeating Japanese-Croatian judoka, Satoshi Ishii, to win the IGF title as well as defending it against him. Again, Mirko returned to the UFC for one fight, and revenge against Gabriel Gonzaga, winning via third round TKO.

“Cro Cop” took his talent to Rizin and took his win streak to 9 by the end of his time there, managing to win the 2016 Rizin Openweight Grand Prix Championship in the meantime. In the final fight of his almost 20 year-long astounding MMA career, Cro Cop sought revenge against former foe Roy Nelson and that he did, winning a unanimous decision victory to take his winning streak to 10.

Cro Cop announced his retirement in 2019 after suffering a stroke going out on top at the age of 44 with a 10-fight win streak under his belt – very few fighters are able to say the same.

Now that you have some background into the “Croatian Sensation” let’s track back and relive Mirko Cro Cop Filipović’s Top 5 MMA Finishes! (in descending order)

5. Heath Herring – Pride 26: Bad to the Bone (June 8, 2003)

Looking to continue his undefeated start in MMA, and after coming off his first decision win in the previous fight, Cro Cop looked to get back to finishing, and he would only need one round to do so.

Immediately as the bell goes for round 1, Herring blitzes forward, trying to close the distance and looks to get the fight to the floor. At 1:30 in, Herring shoots in for a takedown, but Mirko sprawls well and begins to knee Herring’s head before getting back to his feet.

At 2:40 in, Cro Cop lands a brutal body kick and Herring backs up, then shoots for another takedown but is unsuccessful.

At 3:10 into round 1, Cro Cop lands a BRUTAL liver kick and a delayed reaction leaves Herring trying to take a breath before crumbling to the mat, unable to defend himself. Mirko then jumps on him to finish the job at just 3:17 of round 1.

This sickening body kick would be enough to finish anyone – and it got the job done against Herring. This led Mirko into his next fight against Igor Vovchanchyn, where he would up his game still further.

4. Vs. Dos Caras Jr. – Pride: Bushido 1 (Oct. 5, 2003)

In the main event of Pride Bushido 1, Cro Cop took on Dos Caras Jr., aka Alberto Del Rio, a 2-time WWE Champion. In a matchup trademarked as kickboxer vs pro wrestler, it didn’t take long to see which was the superior style.

Dos Caras Jr. was about to make history as the first Hispanic fighter to step foot in a Pride ring and the first fighter to do so wearing a mask; however, that would not protect him from what was about to come.

In round 1, Dos Caras tries to enter the clinch, but Mirko easily negates this and ‘throws him away’ whilst he begins to stalk his prey. At 40 seconds in, Cro Cop backs Caras to the ropes and unbridles his patented left, high kick that smashes against Caras Jr.’s cranium leaving him slumped against the ropes – the butchering was all over in just 46 seconds.

After coming off a Knockout of the Year against Igor Vovchanchyn in his last fight, which finished at 1:29 of round 1, Cro Cop looked to halve the bout time, and make even shorter work against Dos Caras Jr, and he did exactly that!

3. Vs. Alexander Emelianenko – Pride: Conflict (Aug. 15, 2004)

Cro Cop took on 3-time world Sambo champion Alexander Emelianenko, younger brother of the legendary Fedor Emelianenko, who later on in his career Mirko would take on, but unfortunately lose by decision to in a matchup labelled as the ‘fight of the decade.

This was only Emelianenko’s fourth professional MMA fight; after starting 3-0, he was thrown in at the deep end against Cro Cop. However, this fight also offered its challenges to Cro Cop as, at that point in time, Emelianenko was the biggest opponent Mirko had faced in his MMA career.

The size difference was evident from the start as Emelianenko barrels forward trying to close the distance and limit Cro Cop’s kicking game.

However, Cro Cop begins to lead with leg kicks until 30 seconds in,  Emelianenko shoots for a takedown and pushes Mirko into the corner but can’t get him to the ground.

As both fighters are in the corner, Emelianenko leaves himself vulnerable and is penalized for this as Cro Cop capitalizes with a huge knee, 45 seconds into the round.

At 1:20 in, Emelianenko surges wildly forward, but Cro Cop evades and returns with a thunderous left hook stunning Emelianenko. Mirko then begins to unload a flurry of punches since he has Emelianenko cornered. As Emelianenko tries to escape, it is the kickboxer in Cro Cop, that gets the first takedown, throwing Emelianenko to the floor.

Cro Cop decides not to entertain the ground game and elects to keep the fight standing and lets Emelianenko back up, and at 2:05 in, Cro Cop unleashes a hellish signature left, high kick that lands flush and Emelianenko seems to fall in slow motion like a building demolition.

Mirko then finishes the job with quick hammer fists before the fight is called at 2:09 of round 1.

A first round stoppage of a giant of a man in Alexander Emelianenko was the start of the story between the destined matchup between Cro Cop and Fedor Emelianenko, where Fedor sought to avenge his brother in a mammoth clash fight of the decade.

2. Vs. Igor Vovchanchyn – Pride: Total Elimination (Aug. 10, 2003)

In 2003 Cro Cop took on Igor Vovchanchyn, former holder of an incredible 37-fight win streak in MMA with the second most KO’s (41) of any MMA fighter – most competitors not even having 41 fights to their name!

In round 1, at a minute in, Vovchanchyn opens the action with a high kick which partially lands, but Cro Cop takes it well. At 1:25, Cro Cop throws a double jab with both punches missing but he uses them as a distance measure.

Then he discharges a despicable left, high kick that you can hear ‘snap’ off the side of Vovchanchyn’s head. This immediately separates him from consciousness at 1:29 of round 1.

So, in just under 90 seconds, Cro Cop was able to give Pride fans the Knockout of the Year (2003) with his signature, devastating left, high kick living up to the ‘Right Leg Hospital, Left Leg Cemetery’ claim!

1. Vs. Wanderlei Silva – Pride: Conflict Absolute (Sept. 10, 2006)

In a rematch these two legends were set to face each other again after their first matchup ended up a draw, but gave MMA fans the best stare down in MMA history!

Four years since their last matchup, Cro Cop made sure to finish the fight this time and progress through Pride’s Openweight Grand Prix Semi-final.

Within just the first 10 seconds, both fighters come forward with flurries setting the tempo from the outset, but it is Cro Cop who brings the finer work with a liver kick followed by a counter straight left that gets Silva’s  attention.

At 1:40 in, Silva gets a takedown but Cro Cop reverses it and is able to take top position, and after some solid ground and pound, Silva threatens an armbar, using it to get back to his feet.

Almost immediately after this, Silva is dropped by a step back left straight, and Cro Cop jumps in to Silva’s guard looking for the finish but is unable to get it. With a break in the action, the referee brings the fight to a halt for the doctor to examine Silva’s eye before resuming the fight from the same position.

However, after inactivity, the fight is stood back, and Silva is given a yellow card for being too defensive.

At 5 minutes into round 1, Silva tries to burst forward and catches Cro Cop against the ropes, yet Mirko circles out and DETONATES that trademark high kick of his that explodes on impact, separating Wanderlei from consciousness at 5:22 of round 1.

This gave Mirko his second Knockout of the Year (2006) award, but this one against long-time foe Silva, seemed so much sweeter, earning Cro Cop the best finish of his MMA career.

So, there we have it, folks, 5 of Mirko Filipović’s best MMA finishes! Where does he rank among the all-time heavyweight elite? How do you think a rematch against Fedor would have gone? What’s your favourite “Cro Cop” fight moment from the list above?

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Joe Petrozzi is currently studying Sports and Exercise Science in his final year at Staffordshire University. He is interested in all types of martial arts combat, and has been since a young age after his dad introduced him to MMA. He is specifically engrossed with the psychology of being a fighter and the mind of a combat athlete.

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