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Mirko Cro Cop vs. Tim Sylvia - Can Tim Sylvia Stand Up to the 'Croatian Sensation'?

By Robert Rousseau, ExtremeProSports.com
Well, it's official. When Sherdog.com editor Josh Gross first broke the story that Mirko Cro Cop Filipovic had signed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship ( UFC ), nearly every hardcore mixed martial arts fan had to take a step back and breathe. After all, only a few months ago such a move would have been deemed unthinkable.

Then on December 30, 2006, it was made official during UFC 66. Simply put, Joe Rogan spoke about the acquisition for a few minutes, but beyond that there was very little fanfare ( exactly how a quiet man like Cro Cop would have like it ).

Signing Mirko Cro Cop Changes the MMA Landscape's Power Structure

First and foremost, there is no doubt that losing Mirko Cro Cop has weakened PRIDE's powerful stable of heavyweight fighters. He is widely considered the world's second best heavyweight fighter. Further, he is a very popular fighter in Japan; thus the fans are no doubt upset at losing him.

In fact, when one considers the fact that there have been rumblings regarding PRIDE Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko's future in the organization as well ( word is, he may actually jump ship to BodogFight ) the floor could literally be pulled out from under PRIDE in upcoming weeks.

Second, such a move has done a ton to strengthen the UFC. In short, Dana White has not pulled off a better free agent signing in his entire career. In one swift move he has brought credibility to the UFC's Heavyweight Division ( something it did not have previously ). Beyond that, he's brought the best roundhouse kick in MMA history to America; not to mention, the heavyweight equivalent to Chuck Liddell when it comes to takedown defense.

In other words, not only can Cro Cop strike; he also often gets to strike. And it is in fact these world class striking skills that are going to help him endear himself to the American public.

Mirko Cro Cop vs. Tim Sylvia for the UFC Championship.

Filipovic is going to be fighting at UFC 67. His opponent is likely to be undefeated Eddie Sanchez ( though this was not confirmed at UFC 66 ).

Sanchez has shown potential thus far in his career ( he's 6-0 ). Still, the competition he's faced has left something to be desired.

In other words, he's only fought on a large market stage once. This prompted Cro Cop to say the following about him in an interview that MMANews.com made us aware of ( it was translated ).

"I know he is unbeaten in ultimate fighting, even though that doesn't necessarily mean that he is a world class fighter."

True words. However, there are some definitely some world class fighters in the UFC heavyweight division that Cro Cop will likely get to face in the future. One of these is the reigning UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia. Therefore, given the signing, it would seem appropriate to discuss this possible match up.

What Tim Sylvia brings to the table. - Tim Sylvia sports an overall MMA record of 23-2 with 16 (T)KO's and two submission victories to his credit. Here are the facts. Sylvia is huge ( 6'8, 260 lbs. ) and very powerful. Thus, when he hits you with that big right hand of his, you tend to go to sleep. Further, he has very good technical striking skills.

During his recent decision victory over Jeff "The Snowman" Monson, Sylvia also displayed very solid technical ground skills, perhaps to the surprise of many. Further, Sylvia always comes to fight in shape, has strong takedown defense skills, and underrated takedown skills ( remember how hard and easily he took Frank Mir down back when Mir was a contender? ).

Still, Sylvia does have a weakness; in fact, this weakness is probably why many fight fans have been hesitant to give him his just due.

In short, Tim Sylvia is not very athletic looking or explosive. Thus, he often looks kind of plodding in the Octagon. In other words, he can at times be slow.

What Mirko Cro Cop Brings to the table

Cro Cop sports an overall MMA record of 21-4-2 with 14 (T)KO's and four submission victories to his credit. The deal on him can be summed up rather quickly. He is a world class striker. Thus, his technical striking skills are outstanding. Further, he has good power in both hands and ridiculous power in his legs.

Cro Cop possesses the best high kick in MMA history. In addition, his low kicks may also warrant that label.

Further, his takedown defense is unbelievable and he's very strong. Cro Cop's ground skills have improved immensely since he first started in MMA through his training with BJJ black belt, Fabricio Werdum.

He's not yet a true submission fighter; but showing the ability to survive on your back with Fedor for any length of time must mean something.

In other words, he has the stuff to survive on the ground with elite fighters.

Cro Cop's biggest weakness against a guy like Sylvia would probably be his size ( he's only 213 pounds; a small heavyweight ). Also, he has been known to tire in later rounds.

How it might play out in the Octagon. - First, Tim Sylvia needs to defeat a fighter the caliber of Mirko Cro Cop in order to prove that he belongs with the world's heavyweight elite. Problem is that needing to defeat Filipovic and actually doing it are two very different things.

On the ground, these fighters are pretty close. Both are improved in this arena. However, the fact that Cro Cop is not used to fighting in an Octagon might be to his ground fighting and takedown defense disadvantage ( until he learns how to use the Octagon wall to climb his way back up from the mat ).

Regardless, this one probably isn't going to the ground for any significant length of time. Cro Cop's takedown defense is too good ( even without Octagon experience ). Further, he's about as likely to attempt to take Sylvia down as Liddell was with Tito Ortiz.

Mirko Cro Cop is the far better technical striker and athlete, while Sylvia is clearly the bigger man. However, the reach advantage that Sylvia has would probably be negated, to an extent, by the fact that Cro Cop uses his legs so well ( legs are longer than arms, after all ). Cro Cop would probably start this one off with a bunch of low kicks designed to chop the bigger man down and keep him at bay.

Interestingly, one has to wonder how much trouble Cro Cop would have actually trying to reach Sylvia's face with a power kick ( at 6'8 that could be an issue ). Perhaps that poses a different kind of problem for the Croatian.

Regardless, those low kicks can be quite devastating ( just ask Yoshida ). So the question that would probably tell the story on this one is the following. Can Sylvia stay alive long enough to deliver a powerful blow?

Looking forward to finding out. Still, one would probably have to say that the UFC Champion would be the underdog coming in.

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