Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic’s stoppage of both Wanderlei Silva and Josh Barnett on the same night, in the semifinals and finals of the Pride Fighting Championships’ Open-Weight Grand Prix Tournament on September 10, 2006, in Saitama, Japan, is a feat that will never be duplicated.
Cro Cop had faced Wanderlei Silva in the semifinals of Pride 20 in April of 2002, in a set of rules where, if the fight went the distance, it would automatically go to a draw. Although no one was named victorious, many believed that Silva would have won had there been a judge’s decision.
So on September 10, 2006, with the Grand Prix semifinals and finals the same night, Cro Cop was the underdog. Silva was Pride’s Middleweight (205-pound) Champion at the time. After both fighter straded bombs, Silva missed a take down, with Cro Cop ending upon top and pounding Silva from the guard. Silva, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, unsuccessfully attempted an arm bar. The fight resumed standing, with Cro Cop landing a hard, straight left that dropped Silva. Cro Cop patiently continued his attack, leaving Silva’s right eye badly swollen and his face bloodied. Later, Cro Cop threw a left hand, then a jab, then a stunning left high kick that exploded on top of Silva’s head. Silva went down again, this time for good, with the knockout coming at 5:22 of round one.
Next was the finale with Josh Barnett, whom Cro Cop had defeated in 2004 and 2005. Here Cro Cop was also able to keep the catch wrestler Barnett from taking him down. Cro Cop repeatedly landed left hand leads, while Barnett gamely tried to trade punches, kicks, and knees. A vicious body shot dropped Barnett, and Cro Cop continued pounding him from the guard. Just when it looked like Barnett was recovering, Cro Cop blasted clean shots to Barnett’s face and eye, forcing Barnett to tap at 7:32 of round one.
This dominating performance was clearly Cro Cop’s finest MMA performance. The former kick boxer had been cautious in his first Pride fights. Former Pride and current Strikeforce commentator Stephen Quadros recalls the transformation, “It was the Cro Cop era for a while with that left kick, and nobody knew what to do,” he says. “Once he got his wings under him and learned how to sprawl effectively, he became a nightmare for all these guys… nobody had ever faced this kind of stand up, especially with that south paw stance and that left roundhouse kick.”