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Is Mirko “Cro Cop” vs. Roy Nelson Bad for Both Fighters?

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: .

When Dana White granted Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic’s wish to complete his contract with the UFC and take on one final fight there became a strong divide between fans who called for the once great Pride star to retire and those who celebrated the legendary fighter’s (presumed) final shot at glory. But when Filipovic announced on the Croatian sports website Gol.hr that his next match would be with Roy “Big Country” Nelson, it seemed to again fuel the fires of contempt with fans. Once again, for good reason.

It’s no secret that “Cro Cop” was knocked out in stunning form in his last two fights, leaving him 2-3 in his last five bouts (which would have likely been 1-4 had Pat Berry not choked in the closing moments of their UFC 115 match), which left White ample ground to dismiss the fighter from the company. But to bring him back, only to set him up against the best striker (at least considered thusly until his last fight against Frank Mir) that “Cro Cop” would have seen since facing Junior dos Santos seems an unusual decision. After being honorable in allowing one last fight, it appears like somewhat of a calculated slap in the face to the former great to serve him up someone who is perfectly capable of exploiting his increasingly apparent inability to take a stiff blow to the head. Not that he should have been paired against a pushover, but that doesn’t make the matchup any less questionable.

The flip side of the equation is equally as odd, as Nelson is seemingly being fed the deflated Filipovic in order to gauge whether he still has an appetite for the sport, and not simply Whoppers. Walking pneumonia or no, following the hefty fighter’s lifeless showing against Frank Mir at UFC 130, Roy Nelson was firmly warned by White: either cut the weight to light heavyweight or show us all that you still belong with the big boys. Yet having, himself, lost back-to-back fights, Nelson needs to prove himself worthy of the division’s elite by defeating someone markedly more dominant than Filipovic if the former IFL champion and Ultimate Fighter season 10 winner is to see a return to his once believed greatness.

If a shot against “Cro Cop” is to be translated as evidence that matchmakers don’t see Nelson as competition for more advanced fighters and that he simply needs to prove himself, they’d be right. But what happens if Nelson loses, or walks away from the fight with a sluggish decision? Even if he wins, it is hard to see the UFC going ahead and offering Filipovic another fight, and by the sound of his approach to the bout as explained in Wednesday’s interview, it doesn’t appear as though he’s thinking beyond the fight, win or lose. But for Nelson, the possibility that he’s actually cut by the UFC exists, and his survival doesn’t appear entirely safe even if he does win; it might merely buy him time before he’s once again pinned against competition on par with that which has left him in this peculiar situation in the first place. Even with a win Nelson’s head will still be on the chopping block.

It was honorable to give “Cro Cop” one last fight, and it will be interesting to see if “Big Country” still has the heart going forward to fight in the UFC. But the immediate conclusion which follows the announcement that these two fighters have been paired against one another is simply that regardless of who is victorious in the bout, there will be no winners come UFC 137 when Mirko Filipovic and Roy Nelson collide.