Yes, Cro Cop thoroughly dominated Perosh, left him covered in blood and won by TKO, but Cro Cop did less than I thought he should do: The Cro Cop of old would have knocked Perosh out in the first round, not toyed with him for 10 minutes. Perosh, meanwhile, did more than I thought he should do: After taking the fight on just two days' notice, he showed a lot of heart in continuing to fight even after that nasty cut opened up on his forehead late in the second round.
But a win is a win, and Cro Cop's victory -- and his big name -- ensures him a spot on the UFC's roster and some more heavyweight fights in 2010. So what's ahead for Cro Cop?
For starters, he's going to fight Ben Rothwell, who got sick last week and had to drop out of his bout with Cro Cop, forcing Perosh to step in on short notice. UFC President Dana White said at the UFC 110 post-fight press conference that Rothwell just had a stomach virus and should be fine, and Cro Cop did not suffer any injuries, so Rothwell vs. Cro Cop should happen soon.
UFC 112, the pay-per-view card in Abu Dhabi on April 10, would be a natural fight for Cro Cop vs. Rothwell. That pay-per-view card hasn't been filled up yet, and both Cro Cop and Rothwell should be ready to go on just seven weeks' notice.
It's a tough question whether Cro Cop can beat Rothwell at this point in their respective careers. Cro Cop just hasn't been impressive since signing with the UFC with great fanfare in late 2006. Rothwell vs. Cro Cop is probably a toss-up, which -- with all due respect to Rothwell -- shows how far Cro Cop has fallen.
But if Cro Cop does beat Rothwell, that's when the UFC would go into a full-court press with the "Cro Cop is back!" promotions. With a win over Rothwell, Cro Cop would be on a two-fight winning streak, and the UFC would want to set him up in a fight that would serve as a main event or co-main event on a pay-per-view card.
I believe that fight would be Cro Cop vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
The UFC likes appealing to fans' nostalgia by putting aging superstars in the Octagon together. We saw that at UFC 109 with Mark Coleman vs. Randy Couture, we'll see it at UFC 115 with Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz, and I think that if Cro Cop beats Rothwell, we'll see it some time this year with Cro Cop vs. Nogueira.
A 2010 installment of Cro Cop vs. Nogueira wouldn't be anything close to their classic Pride fight in 2003, when Cro Cop dominated Nogueira on the feet in the first round but was submitted by Nogueira with an armbar in the second. But it would be an easy fight for the UFC to market, using the name brand of the two fighters and all that old Pride footage.
Cro Cop will turn 36 this year, and I think even his biggest fans understand that he'll never again look like he did five years ago. But even if he wasn't impressive against Perosh, both he and the UFC must be thinking that they've got one last chance to market him as an impressive fighter in 2010.
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