Very few things in life are guaranteed.
The sun will rise and set within the next 24 hours. The IRS will come calling next April for all income-earning U.S. citizens who generate more than a few grand. And, eventually, each and every one of us will permanently cease breathing.
There aren’t many other absolutes in life.
It’s probably not a big shock that I happen to have another one for everyone to chew on. I guarantee – yes, you read that correctly, but I’ll write it again anyway. I G-U-A-R-A-N-T-E-E that the fight between Mirko Cro Cop and Pat Berry will not go the judges’ cards.
No, I don’t have a crystal ball. I’m not Nostradamus. But I am in the business of breaking down fights, and this one has knockout stamped all over it. Ok, one of the pair could also tap out or verbally submit due to strikes. No matter. That is still a knockout in my book since it a fight that ends inside the distance due to one man repeatedly putting his hands on the other.
Both Cro Cop and Barry are top-of-the-food-chain strikers. They are ridiculously ferocious with their fists and shins, both in terms of the raw force and technical precision.
The difference between the pair is the fact that Barry is the much bigger puncher with both hands. Cro Cop’s main fistic weapon is his left cross, which is obviously thrown from a southpaw stance. Barry has a savage right hand and an equally brutal left hook. Part of that is the fact that he punches from a better foundation—his feet are almost always in the proper position and he really throws his punches from the lower half of his body. Part is due to the fact that the guy is one big fast-twitch muscle.
There is no doubt in my mind that Barry can score a dramatic one-punch knockout victory over Cro Cop if he comes out very aggressively and risks getting knocked out himself. The Croatian does not like pressure. Most bullies don’t. He is not comfortable attacking while retreating, almost always opting to cover up while circling or backing away from an aggressive attack. He may plant and instantly fire a fight-ending punch or kick. Yet, aggressively attacking with both fists flying is the best way to approach Cro Cop on the feet.
If, immediately prior to the attack, Barry’s lead left foot is on the inside of Cro Cop’s lead right foot, he should lead with leaping left hooks and follow up with big right hands. If it is on the outside, he should lead with right hands and make sure to clean up with a left hook and possibly a right kick to the body.
All it will take is a few of those salvos landing for Barry to win by knockout. And if Barry initially circles to his own left, away from Cro Cop’s biggest weapons, and waits for his foe to come forward, he will greatly increase his odds of landing his punches.
As mentioned, when Cro Cop walks down an opponent, he literally does just that—walks. Granted, he doesn’t actually bring his left foot ahead of his right, but he breaks all rules of foot positioning by bringing his feet together each time he steps forward with his left foot. When a fighter’s feet are together, he is completely vulnerable.
Nobody, not even Chuck Liddell circa 2006 or, for that matter, George Foreman circa 1973, can land effective punches from that position. Anything thrown with one’s feet together is strictly an arm punch. More importantly for Barry, Cro Cop cannot possibly uncork a kick of any significance when he is in that position.
Thus, he should rush in and attack as Cro Cop brings his left foot forward. As Cro Cop covers up, he can either pound away or change levels and shoot a double-leg takedown. Cro Cop’s defensive guard is pretty good, and it gets better all the time, but it is highly unlikely that he has the submission goods to submit Barry from that position. And since we all know that it is pretty tough to knock out someone while striking from the bottom, Barry will be able to both wear down Cro Cop and score points during those ground moments.
Of course, Barry can follow a different game plan. He can sit back and wait for Cro Cop to initiate the attack—something he most certainly will do. Barry is excellent at slipping punches with pendulum-like movements of his upper body and countering with massive return fire. He is also very good at stepping inside of a high kick and bombing away.
Regardless, that is not the best way to fight Cro Cop. He doesn’t tip off his high kick like the overwhelming majority of kickboxers. He is one of the few fighters who can lead with that strike and still land it at a high rate, which is downright scary. Barry should not let the natural bully come in and dictate the action. Otherwise, Cro Cop might find his groove, and there is nobody in the sport who is more dangerous on the feet when he is feeling frisky than the Croatian bomber.
Cro Cop’s game plan should be the complete opposite of what he has done in every fight. If I were cornering him, I’d have him come out, throw a halfhearted jab and immediately shoot for a takedown.
Barry doesn’t have the best takedown defense in the world. He will undoubtedly be a bit jittery in the opening moments of the fight, since he remains a relative MMA novice. Cro Cop can take advantage of those nerves by half committing to a jab, which will probably make Barry lift his arms in defense, and use that moment to take the action to the ground.
Cro Cop is much taller than Barry. That is as much an advantage on the ground as it is on the feet. His additional length, particularly in his torso, will allow him to posture up or stack up Barry and fire meaningful ground strikes—the kind that can end a fight in the blink of an eye. Barry’s short, muscular legs will struggle to struggle to control Cro Cop’s hips, so I don’t see his guard being overly effective against in this fight.
Taking Barry out of his comfort zone with a takedown will also cause the Duke Roufus student to expend tremendous energy from adrenalin spikes. Barry isn’t known as having the deepest gas tank in the business, though that may change as he becomes more and more comfortable in the Octagon, so anything that Cro Cop can do to tire him out early will help lead to a knockout later.
Of course, Cro Cop isn’t going to come out and immediately shoot for a takedown. He should. But he won’t. He isn’t built that way. He is going to come out looking to engage in a kickboxing match. I’d be floored if he approaches the fight any other way, which is yet another reason why he should mix it up by starting with a takedown.
The southpaw will come out looking to throw lead left hands and left high kicks. He will mix in the occasional inside leg kick and kicks to the body, but he won’t really commit to that as part of his game plan because he will be far too concerned with Barry stepping in, catching and countering one of those low or mid kicks with a lights-out right hand.
Cro Cop will stalk Barry in plodding fashion, walking with far too upright of a stance and constantly bringing his feet together. Nonetheless, everything he fires, whether left crosses, short right hands, left high kicks, or, right kicks to the liver, something he uses less frequently but very effectively against orthodox fighters, will be uncorked with extremely bad intentions.
The key for Cro Cop is to pressure Barry into retreating. As mentioned, he is a bully. He needs to be the aggressor to truly be comfortable. Sure, he has the ability to counter and has scored many knockouts with counter shots. Just not against a guy with Barry’s speed and power.
Cro Cop can force Barry into retreating by fighting with a very active jab, rather than always leading with his left cross. MMA isn’t boxing. Right jabs are very effective against orthodox fighters because the four-ounce vale tudo gloves are so small that it is easy to sneak in the jab around an opponent’s raised left glove.
Moreover, an active jab will distract Barry’s attention, if only briefly, which opens the door for Cro Cop to do what he does best—land left hand or left leg bombs.
Another way for Cro Cop to force Barry into retreat is to lead with a healthy dose of left inside leg kicks. Cro Cop is at his best when he throws at least a dozen kicks per round. That was his style in PRIDE, and his knockout proficiency was a thing of legend. In the UFC, Cro Cop has been so concerned with opponents taking him down that he has all but abandoned his kicks.
Right leg, hospital. Left leg, cemetery.
That was Cro Cop’s mantra throughout his PRIDE career. He needs to recommit to those words inside the Octagon. Barry is not a great takedown artist. Cro Cop should not hesitate to fire away with his kicks. He fires them with such explosion and force that they are exceedingly difficult to defend—even blows that are blocked cause damage—and even tougher to counter.
If he recommits to his kicks, Cro Cop can easily win this fight by knockout.
Have you noticed the theme? Either man can easily win this fight by knockout. Either man can win with a single strike—Barry can do so with either hand and Cro Cop can do so with either his left fist or shin.
So, who will come out on top? Honestly, this one is impossible to call. It will all come down to who lands a nuclear missile first. Trying to predict that is like trying to predict whether the stock market will open up or down tomorrow—good luck.
Again, the only thing that I’m guaranteeing in this fight is that it won’t last the distance. Count on it.
Mirko Cro Cop
• 35 yrs old
• 6’2, 240 lbs
• 73-inch reach
• 26-7-2 1NC professional record (18-4-2 PRIDE; 3-3 UFC)
• 3-1 1 NC in last 5
• 6-3 1 NC in last 10
• All 3 UFC wins and 14 of 18 PRIDE wins by KO/TKO/SUB (strikes)
• Was finished in 2 of 3 UFC losses
• Former PRIDE Open-Weight Grand Prix Champion
• Current layoff is 111 days (TKO2 over Anthony Perosh on February 21, 2010)
• Longest career layoff is 192 days (TKO1 over Tatsuya Mizuno on March 15, 2008, until ND against Alistair Overeem on September 23, 2008)
• 30 years old
• 5’11, 240 lbs
• 74.5-inch reach
• 5-1 professional record (2-1 UFC)
• 4-1 in last 5 fights
• All professional wins by KO/TKO
• Only loss by submission
• Knockout of the Night and Fight of the Night (TKO2 over Antoni Hardonk on October 24, 2009)
• Current layoff of 231 days is the longest of his career (TKO2 over Antoni Hardonk on October 24, 2009)