Cro Dropped: Gonzaga Shocks Croat
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
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
The ecstatic Brazilian had delivered an almost flawless
performance, and barely taken so much as a punch in anger for his
"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
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.
Belarus' former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski (Pictures) and Brazilian PRIDE veteran
(Pictures) cancelled one anther out in
a somewhat tepid three round heavyweight encounter, won unanimously
After dropping Werdum with a grazing right uppercut in the first,
Arlovski stalked throughout behind his jab, while working steady,
if not particularly heavy low kicks.
It was clear that while the Belarusian wanted no real part of
Werdum's ground game, Fabricio, bar the occasional flurry, was in
no mood to stand toe-to-toe with the heavy-handed "Pitbull."
The bout slowed to something of a crawl by round three, and the
heavyweight contenders endured the booing and slow-hand clapping of
The bout served as a reminder of the fickleness of an MMA crowd;
Arlovski, thunderously cheered into the ring, some 18 or so minutes
later, found himself booed during the post-fight interview. Showing
on-the-spot PR skills, the former UFC champ offered a heartfelt
apology to the Manchester throng, which appeared to do the trick,
as warm applause and cheering accompanied his departure from the
In a night that he will never forget, Liverpool's immensely popular
TUF 3 winner Michael
Bisping (Pictures) entered the Octagon to an
unforgettable roar of approval from the adoring MEN crowd.
The charming, quick-witted slugger had stated beforehand that he
had every intention in relishing the occasion of fighting so close
to home in a famous sporting arena like the MEN. He had also
promised fireworks and his 14th straight stoppage victory, and
achieved both aims in stopping Elvis Sinosic (Pictures) of Australia at 1:20 of the
second round, though not without a few scares along the way.
Being an underdog and fighting away from home is viewed as little
more than a minor occupational hazard for the Australian veteran,
but he must have felt like a Christian being thrown to the lions
with the sheer weight of the partisan reception he was subjected
After a bright start on the feet, Sinosic was quickly taken down by
the Englishman and endured a heavy, one-sided pounding for the
majority of the opening session. With Bisping blasting punches body
to head from the half-guard, it wasn't long before the Australian's
hair was dyed crimson red from cuts inflicted by cruel barrages
from the British fighter.
Despite a couple of slick submission attempts from the bottom it
had been a largely one-sided opening session, and ended with
Bisping in the top position raining down more punishment on the
So brutalized was Sinosic from the five minutes of punishment he'd
endured, he appeared unable or unwilling to rise from the canvas
between rounds, while his cornermen feverishly worked on his
Moments into the second session, shockingly, it was Bisping on his
back from a perfectly placed Sinosic knee, and now it was the
Australian's turn to go into overdrive, landing punches on the
downed local and quickly securing what looked like a tight
Unable to force the tap, he quickly transitioned to Bisping's back,
looking for a rear-naked choke. Bisping showed good defense, and
reversed to the top position, while thousands of Brits breathed a
collective sigh of relief.
Bisping had almost found himself on the losing end no fewer than
three times in less than a minute, so with dominance regained, he
wasted little time in pouring on a fight-ending flurry of strikes
to force Steve Mazzagatti's timely intervention, much to the relief
of the crowd.
"I didn't see the shot, I was like, what the **** was that?"
admitted Bisping in reference to the knee strike that dropped
Bisping has been dubbed the "Ricky Hatton of MMA" and on the
evidence of the frenetic battlers passionate support and the sheer
energy and emotion of his performances, it's not difficult to see
Heavyweight's Cheick Kongo
(Pictures) of France and Assuerio Silva (Pictures) of Brazil fought to a close
majority decision edged by Kongo by two scores of 29-28 and one
dissenting card of 28-28.
The first two rounds were virtual carbon copies of each other, with
Kongo's stand-up dominating early before heavy slams saw the
Frenchman deposited on the canvas in each round. Silva controlled
from top position without doing any real damage.
Depending on whether you preferred Kongo's short spells of clear
striking dominance, or Silva's longer but less effective control
from the ground, it was easy to see why each round was open to
The third round saw Kongo pressing the attack with a heavy
assortment of strikes including high kicks, knees and a barrage of
punches. Kongo found himself deposited on his back courtesy of
another slam from the Brazilian strong man, but again Silva did
little to advance the position and was quickly stood up, only to
absorb more of the Frenchman's heavy leather.
He responded with another takedown, however this time Kongo
reversed the position and ended the fight in control, dropping
punches and elbows on Silva in steady but unspectacular fashion to
eke out the victory.
Undefeated Brazilian phenom Ryoto Machida (Pictures) scored his second UFC victory
with a steady, one-sided unanimous decision victory over undefeated
American David Heath
In a similar manner to his previous bout against Sam Hoger (Pictures), Machida's defensive wiles and
quick hands completely shut down a dangerous and useful
Machida's canny southpaw pot shots bring to mind boxing's former
four-weight titlist Pernell "Sweet Pea" Whittaker. Much like
Whittaker, when Machida decides to stay in close and punch away, he
can do so almost unscathed while lightning reflexes and footwork
that carry him harmlessly out of the way of the counters.
Heath was game, but just that one step behind throughout, and found
himself on the canvas courtesy of a series of knees in the final
Machida dropped a few punches and elbows before effortlessly
transitioning to side-control and then the mount before almost
ending the bout with a rear-naked choke in the last few seconds of
the round. Two judges scored 30-27 for Machida with the third
tabbing him a clear 30-26 winner.
Machida may not be the world's most exiting fighter, but if there's
a smoother craftsmen operating at 205 in MMA I can't think who he
Welterweights "Relentless" Paul
Taylor (Pictures) of Walsall, England and Edilberto de Oliveira
(Pictures) were the first men into the
Octagon and the British fighter delighted the crowd by scoring a
spectacular high kick highlight real of a KO over his Brazilian
Taylor largely dominated the stand up, showing excellent takedown
defense, and solid composure when de Olivera briefly had his back
in the standing position late in the first.
Crocata's jab and occasional overhand right proved little match for
Taylor's crisper stand-up and greater variety. With Taylor
gradually chopping away at the weakening Brazilian, the third round
finish came as no real surprise, with the enthusiastic Taylor
having to be virtually prized off his beaten opponent by the
referee. The official time was 37 seconds of round three.
London Pancrase's head coach, Jess "The Joker" Liaudin had an
easier time than expected with German-based Russian judoka Dennis Siver (Pictures).
Liaudin absorbed an early takedown before wrapping up the visiting
fighter with a slick armbar to score an impressive victory at just
1:21 of the first.
Italian Alessio Sakara
(Pictures) bounced back from
consecutive UFC defeats to score a surprisingly easy first round
stoppage over Canada's usually durable Victor Valimaki (Pictures).
After hurting Valimaki with a right, and dislodging his mouthpiece,
the end came moments later when another thumping right dropped the
Canadian in a heap against the cage. A brief follow-up flurry
forced the intervention at 1:55 of the first.
Sakara, a 25-year-old former boxer, will be relieved to get back to
winning ways after being quickly submitted by Dean Lister (Pictures) then blown out by Drew McFedries
in his previous UFC appearances.
Terry Etim (Pictures) of Liverpool, England and Matt
Grice of the USA put their 9-0 records on the line in an exciting
lightweight clash. Etim staggered Grice early only to be taken down
heavily and endure some stinging, ground-and-pound from the sharp
fists and heavy elbows of the visiting fighter.
After enduring a rough three minutes or so, the lanky Etim finally
escaped, and quickly secured a standing guillotine choke. The
submission was locked in tight, and it took all of Grice's strength
to bravely battle his way out. Cleary still dazed, a few more
hammer fists followed before Etim secure a second guillotine, this
time from the bottom, to put the American to sleep for a technical
submission victory at 4:38 of the first round.
Spare a thought for London's David Lee (Pictures). The likeable lightweight
submission fighter would be the only Englishman on the bill not to
emerge victorious in his bout. American-based Brazilian Junior Assuncao (Pictures) saw to that with a dominating
second round victory.
Assuncao rocked Lee early in the first and had his way with the
brave Englishman before scoring a fight-ending rear-naked choke at
1:55 of the second. The aftermath told the tale of these two
fighters who had both attempted to rebound from debut UFC defeats:
Lee beside himself in tearful dismay with Assuncao knelt in
prayerful repost just a few feet away.
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