Last night Croatian legend Mirko Cro Cop won his first major Kickboxing title, 17 years after his professional debut. In one night, in his home country of Croatia, the professional Kickboxer and Mixed Martial Artist was crowned the 2012 K-1 World Grand Prix Final tournament champion.
The Croatian went into the tournament as one of the favorites, and defeated a newcomer to the K-1 World, Jarrell Miller in the quarter finals. The fight was contested mostly with Cro Cop on the back foot, weathering a lot of knees from the American and was crowded many times in the fight which prevented him from really unleashing his trade mark “left leg cemetery” high kick.
Cro Cop was handed the victory in a very close fight. Muay Thai veteran Pavel Zhuravlev stood in front of Cro Cop in the Semi Finals. In a more competitive fight, Mirko was deducted a point in the second round for clinching. Though he had more success in the fight than his last bout there was still some doubt over who had won the fight. Again Mirko was given the nod, and went on to face a veteran of the European circuit, Ismael Londt.
This time there was no confusion over who had won the fight, with Cro Cop landing his trade mark left high kick in the second round, dropping his opponent for an eight count. The home country fighter continued to be the aggressor during the fight and without any doubt, won the fight and with it the Crown of K-1 World Grand Prix Champion.
Mirko truly showed what was left in the legend after switching to MMA in 2001, back to K-1 in 2012 and having to face many injuries along the way. However the real thought is, after achieving what the 38-year-old could not achieve in his 20’s, is it time for Cro Cop to call it a day?
There is no doubt, considering the injuries the man has sustained over his long career that he looked great… but not overly spectacular. While it was a treat to see him unleash his trade mark kick against Londt in the finals, it was also a bit unfortunate to watch him fight on against an opponent he would have demolished back in his hay days. There was also some controversy over his victories against Miller and Zhuravlev, though controversy has always been around in K-1. But we know that the old Cro Cop would have managed to do so much more against those opponents. It was particularly discouraging to see Cro Cop struggle in his three round fight against Miller, who had only had three professional kickboxing fights before that fight.
Now we already knew that Mirko was well past his prime. We saw that in his return to Kickboxing, where he dominated two of the three rounds against Ray Sefo but not in the way we had seen him do so before his transition to MMA.
We also knew that K-1, due to their financial difficulties and inactivity for two years, was not going to have the greatest talent the kickboxing world has to offer. The likes of Gokhan Saki, Tyrone Spong, Semmy Schilt, Daniel Ghita, Remy Bonjasky and many more are fighting over in Glory, which seems to have replaced K-1 as the top organization of the kickboxing world.
So we knew that Mirko would not be able to prove himself against the “best” fighters in the world, which unfortunately does not make his win last night as awesome as it would have been 15 years ago. Never the less we saw him win against three much younger and fresher fighters in one night, which for an old lion like Mirko is always tough to do.
Although since he has proven himself in a eight man tournament, regardless of the opposition it is definitely time to call it a day. The alternative is that Mirko continues to fight on, and try and earn his way into the Glory organization; however even if he made it in you would have to say that after his first two performances last night that he would most likely not stand a chance at winning their tournament, or beating their top guys.
Unfortunately time catches up to everyone and it is always important to know that not everyone can fight into their mid 40’s. Randy Couture was able to do it against some of the best fighters out there at 44 to 47; but Ken Shamrock (who is almost equal in age) was unable to look overly spectacular at age 40 and since then, to age 47 he has looked everything but great.
There is no doubt that regardless of the opposition last night, that Cro Cop achieved a monumental goal that he can be proud of. The next thing to realize is that he has achieved many great things in his career, given us some unforgettable moments, and should now retire at the end of a legendary career.