It wasn't that long ago that Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic was one of the most feared heavyweight MMA fighters in the world. The Croation fighter gained quite a reputation as one of the PRIDE organization's top big men, compiling an amazing highlight reel of knockouts along the way. Filipovic had always possessed a solid standup game. It's true that he's well known for having lethal kicks, which he displayed as an accomplished kickboxer in the K-1 organization. Filipovic also was a solid amateur boxer, even once qualifying to compete in a prestigious European tournament where numerous future Olympians and pro world boxing champions would compete. Mirko is a fairly quick learner and incrementally improved his ground game a bit as well. But it's clear that his bread and butter is the standup game, where he has often flourished when he's able to create distance and find his range. "Cro Cop" uses angles well and throws with bad intentions from his southpaw stance. He typically doesn't throw a lot of punching combinations but prefers to use his quick hands to set up his powerful kicks. Filipovic has a professional record of 25-6-2 with nineteen wins coming by way of knockout and three wins coming by way of submission. The combined career winning percentage of the opponents that he has faced so far in his career is 66.5%.
25-year-old Junior Dos Santos is the trendy pick coming into this matchup. The talented Brazilian heavyweight comes from a kickboxing background but under the tutelage of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Anderson Silva and others from the Black House camp, he's shown flashes of being one of the more exciting MMA heavyweight prospects in the world. There are many question marks surrounding Dos Santos, not the least of which are his defense and his ground game. But what is clear is that the guy is a game fighter that has shown heavy hands and an aggressive style. It is true that he has, to this point, faced mostly limited competition. But his quick first round knockout of Fabricio Werdum last year caused many fans of the sport to sit up and take notice. I'm interested to see how Junior approaches another strong striker. He lacks much experience at this level but I'm guessing that with the coaching he regularly receives we'll see him come out with a gameplan that puts him in the best possible position to get the win. Dos Santos has a professional record of 8-1 with six wins coming by way of knockout and two wins coming by way of submission. The combined career winning percentage of the opponents that he has faced so far in his career is 61.9%.
Keep this in mind: In the 33 combined wins between these two fighters, only three of them have gone to the scorecards. I'm thinking that trend is likely to continue this weekend. Of all the fights on the main card, this is the one that is the biggest wild card, in my opinion. I honestly don't know what to expect. How much does the 35 year old Cro Cop have left? He's had his share of injuries in recent years and, although he's supposedly healthy now, he hasn't appeared as quick to me in his latest outings. On the other hand, Mirko has faced a who's who of MMA heavyweights in his time and should be the more comfortable and relaxed fighter walking into the cage on Saturday night. How sharp will "Cro Cop" look? We've seen that Dos Santos is clearly a talented offensive fighter. How is his chin? How does he deal with movement? How is his stamina? This fight can be seen as either a big test for the talented prospect or, possibly, an opportunity for Filipovic to put the division on notice that he's still got enough left to make a run at the gold. My prediction: Junior Dos Santos by TKO in the 2nd. Let me say this, though: Of all the predictions that I'm making for UFC 103, this is the one that I'm least confident about. I could truly see this one going either way. What say you?