Sunday, April 22, 2007

The month of the Underdog

Cro Cop almost had his head taken off last night. The kick that sent him to sleep looked a lot like one of his own. Gonzaga controlled the entire fight, start to finish. I knew he was a game fighter, but to make Cro Cop look like an amateur the way that he did was a huge suprise to everyone - except of course Randy.

Cro Dropped: Gonzaga Shocks Croat in UFC
April 22, 2007
by Paul Concannon (

[4/22/2007] MANCHESTER, England, April 21 -- In a crammed MEN arena, Gabriel Gonzaga (Pictures) became the latest in an ever-growing list of fighters to prove that in mixed martial arts, above all other sports, nothing is sacred.

Even those who felt that the Brazilian grappling standout had a chance to upset the odds against Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic had to have felt that no victory would be gained without the four-time BJJ Brazilian national champion walking through fire against the lethal hands and feet of the Eastern European dynamo.

As it turned out, "Napao" made the whole thing look relatively simple, controlling almost every second of the four minutes and 51 seconds the bout lasted, before finishing the Croatian powerhouse with a high kick to the temple.

"I knew I was aiming for a knockout in this fight," Gonzaga said. "I saw the opportunity and took it."

"Cro Cop" entered to an enthusiastic reception from a Manchester crowd of 14,921 that seemed blissfully aware of what manner of fighter was gracing the night with his presence.

Yet it was the confident-looking Gonzaga who largely controlled the feeling out process, repeatedly throwing, if not landing, a straight right hand while giving the impression he was looking at setting up something altogether bigger. More importantly, he kept the 2006 PRIDE Open-Weight Grand Prix champion from getting set for his lethal left hand and nuclear-powered kicks.

Absorbing Filipovic's first kick of the night to the body, Gonzaga scored a solid takedown to get the lighter man exactly where he wanted him.

Controlling from half-guard, Gonzaga unleashed a busy ground-and-pound attack, mixing in punches with nasty looking elbows. Gonzaga maintained position, and dealt out a solid, steady beating that almost inevitably led to bleeding, which appeared to be coming from a cut somewhere close to the hairline.

With the round over four minutes old, and "Cro Cop" pressed against the fence eating punches, referee Herb Dean (Pictures) requested a surprising and somewhat controversial stand-up. The arena crackled with excitement as the bout entered Mirko's territory. The crowd waited for a bomb to drop, and sure enough, it did -- but it was the Croat that was the surprising recipient.

As soon as Gonzaga's leg smashed against Filipovic's temple, one knew there could be no possible way back. Falling limply to the canvas, out cold, the force of the kick almost turned the southpaw inside-out; there were a few worrying moments until, thankfully, he was able to come round, sufficiently enough to graciously deliver a post-fight interview.

The ecstatic Brazilian had delivered an almost flawless performance, and barely taken so much as a punch in anger for his trouble.

"I was right mentally and physically and I knew the knockout would come," Gonzaga said afterwards.

Sitting ringside was UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture (Pictures), who had likely been licking his chops at the prospect of taking on "Cro Cop" later in the year, will now likely have to contend with the powerful Brazilian instead.

As for Filipovic, it's unclear where he goes next, a fact duly acknowledged by the MMA legend moments later.

I don't know," came his stoic response during the post-fight interview. It's likely he just had a bad night, but what is certain is that Gonzaga had a very good one.

View the original article in its entirety at by clicking here.

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