If you came across this article and were looking for an in-depth breakdown of this weekend’s UFC Fight Pass card, you’re at the wrong place. However, if you were not aware of the heavyweight bout taking place on Saturday, or were looking for a reason to watch a semi-meaningful rematch in which one of the most disturbing head kick knockouts in combat sports history occurred, you’re in the right place.
UFC Fight Night 64 taking place in Krakow, Poland on Saturday is not a fight card for most non-European MMA fans. The card is dominated by European newcomers and prospects, not too many names that will stick out even to some of the most hardcore MMA fans. Although, British bomber Jimi Manuwa, and Scottish striking virtuoso Joanne Calderwood are both on the lineup, their opponents are virtually unknown. Which leaves us with the main event, a 5 round heavyweight affair between Gabriel Gonzaga and Mirko Cro Cop, a rematch of their 2007 bout at UFC 70 in where the unthinkable happened. Mirko Cro Cop, a former K1 kickboxer notorious for his left head kick knockouts had the tables turned in the most devastating fashion imaginable. In the waning seconds of the first round, Gabriel Gonzaga threw a right head kick that landed with every violent intention known to man, Cro Cop fell like a hundred foot oak tree and bent his ankle in a gruesome manner that may very well have been more unsettling than the knockout itself. After the fight, Gonzaga lost his title fight with Randy Couture and would imminently be cut from the UFC roster and Cro Cop had a tumultuous run where he would retire from the sport. Now, 8 years after their first encounter, they meet again in a rather strange and head scratching form of circumstances.
It is safe to say, that both men are passed their prime and are rather unlikely candidates to make a title run, so why? Why care? Why care about a fight with no clear endgame, that means almost nothing in the rankings perspective? Because, there is a sick, nefarious notion in our minds that something epic could happen. Cro Cop seems determined to avenge the loss and Gonzaga seems set to not be on the wrong end of a losing streak. However, it’s not enough to compel many people to tune in and watch, but the very idea of seeing a colossal level of violence does intrigue.
Gonzaga vs. Cro Cop II is a fight that slaps the MMA fan in the face, and not necessarily in a bad way. Too often can the MMA fan have the inner battle of whether this is a spectacle or a sport, and Saturday’s matchup makes no bones about it, it’s both. Both Gonzaga and Cro Cop have a penchant to dish out exorbitant amounts of violence, and absorb scary amounts of concussive blows, so the chances of a finish are sky high, the opportunity for a “Fight of the Night” bonus are there too. Moreover, there’s a chance Cro Cop can avenge his loss and return the knockout he suffered, but, there’s also a chance of the one thing that people are thinking but, for one reason or another, don’t want to say out loud; Gabriel Gonzaga can shock the world and head kick Cro Cop again.
In MMA, anything is possible and no outcome can be truly obvious, that is why it’s so exciting. Can lightning strike twice? Can such a ridiculous all-time great knockout be replicated? Who knows, that is why we’ll watch. Don’t be afraid to indulge the insidious desire to watch professional fighters concuss each other on the grandest of scales. True martial arts builds character and represents the most organic form of competition, but it’s also about inflicting damage and pain, they can and do, coexist. So don’t feel guilty, don’t question your love of the sport, enjoy the bouts however you see fit, because this is one of the rare times where the outcome means little, but it doesn’t matter because the anticipation for brutality is the true merit. True competition or cheap entertainment? No difference, the spectacle is competition, and the beauty is in the irony.