Both guys are done being among the elite within their respective weight classes.
As little as two years ago both of these respective fighters were on top of the world albeit different parts.. Matt Hughes reigned supreme in North America commonly called the "Greatest Welterweight Of All Time" having just pounded out a UFC legend in Royce Gracie, and Cro Cop was just about to wrap up his 2006 PRIDE Grand Prix victory against Josh Barnett in Japan. What would transpire afterwards happened quickly and shows the quick evolution of MMA.
After accomplishing those two impressive feats, both fighters began their epic fall from grace. Hughes succumbed to George St. Pierre at UFC 65. Cro Cop did win his UFC debut, but then suffered a devastating KO loss to relatively unknown Gabriel Gonzaga. Hughes is 1-3 in his last 4 fights, and Cro Cop is 2-2 in his last 4 fights. However, one of those victories was a gimmie fight in his DREAM debut.
What else do they have in common?
The styles that they used effectively for years, albeit totally different, have grown old with them. Hughes was primarily a wrestler that did develop a good BJJ game, but never developed the stand up game to hang with the young guns of today. Cro Cop is the polar opposite, while a devastating striker, he never developed the ground game to compliment his stand up.
However, the biggest thing that they share is that they no longer have that aura they used to possess. The blueprint on how to defeat both of these fighters has been developed, and their opponents are no longer intimidated by them. Basically in facing Hughes, you stop the take down and punish him standing. In facing Cro Cop, you avoid the straight left punch and the left kick to the head and apply constant pressure.
Between the two fighters I think Cro Cop has the best chance at regaining some of the mystique he used to possess. I know there are a lot of Cro Cop fans out there, and like them I would love to see him return to his glory days. It is rumored that he will face Alistair Overeem at a future DREAM event. Overeem is a quality opponent and a win there would be a great start towards regaining his old form. However, a loss to Overeem would send him into relative obscurity.
Hughes will face Matt Serra in his next fight if his knee injury rehabs the way he thinks it will. I've never been a huge Matt Hughes fan, but I do respect what he has been able to accomplish. A loss against Serra would pretty much end his career. If he wins, well most people would say he was supposed to win that fight...so it's kind of a lose/lose situation with him.
This snap shot of both of these fighters is a testament of how quick the MMA landscape changes. Fighters are evolving and entering the game more complete than they just just a couple of years ago. Will Hughes and Cro Cop defy my opinion and return to glory? I have my doubts and only time will tell. However, one thing is for certain...it's do or die for the both of them at this point.