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UFC Fight Night 64: Gonzaga vs Cro Cop II Preview

By Ryan Frederick for

The UFC will travel to Poland for the first time on Saturday, holding an event in Krakow, the second-largest city in the country. It will also be the first event this year streamed on the UFC's digital subscription service, UFC Fight Pass, and the second in a string of four straight weeks of UFC action. The main event will be a heavyweight rematch from 2007 as Gabriel Gonzaga takes on Mirko Cro Cop in a potential five-round clash.

That's right- Gabriel Gonzaga and Mirko Cro Cop are headlining a UFC event in 2015.

I had the same reaction that many had when the fight was announced as a headliner. It's easy to understand why the fight was made. You have the way the first fight ended. It was supposed to be Cro Cop finishing Gonzaga with his legs en route to a title shot against then UFC Heavyweight Champion, Randy Couture. Except the opposite happened. Gonzaga finished Cro Cop with a head kick that is now seen on UFC highlight reels constantly, and Gonzaga went on to fight Couture for the title (a fight he lost as Couture dominated him in their bout at UFC 74 in August 2007).

However, is this a fight fans were clamoring for to be a main event? It makes sense, as with the show taking place in Poland, and with Cro Cop being a superstar in the region, him being in the main event should be a ticket seller to the local crowd. However, this will be Cro Cop's return to the UFC, something many thought would never happen. He lost his last three fights inside the Octagon, all by knockout, being finished by Frank Mir, Brendan Schaub and Roy Nelson between September 2010 and October 2011. And it wasn't just that he was finished- he was knocked out cold by Mir and Schaub, much like he was by Gonzaga. He has gone 3-1 in MMA and 7-1 in kickboxing since then after talking about retirement, so while you can say he has possibly earned his way back to the UFC, his third stint was a huge surprise.

You can blame Bellator for this one. Bellator showed interest in signing Cro Cop, and with the UFC wanting to do everything they can to keep fighters with some form of a name value away from the Viacom-owned promotion, he suddenly became a valued commodity once again. The UFC swooped in and signed Cro Cop, probably under terms that would make other fighters jealous, but there are reasons behind his signing. With Cro Cop being back in the fold, how to book him becomes a mystery. He likely won't ever contend for the championship, and he had become a punching bag during the end of his last UFC run.

You can now make the argument that booking him against Gonzaga was the perfect move. Gonzaga is also going nowhere in the UFC's heavyweight division, having lost two straight fights after winning five of his previous six fights. Neither man will be able to compete with the Cain Velasquez, Fabricio Werdum, Junior Dos Santos, Travis Browne or Stipe Miocic types that occupy the top of the UFC heavyweight division. Both may win some fights, but will likely lose more than they win as their best days have clearly passed them by.

This fight being made is quite similar to the booking of Andrei Arlovski against Antonio Silva back in September. A rematch that fans weren't exactly asking for headlining a Fight Pass card in a foreign country. Arlovski won that fight and has now positioned himself to get back into title contention should he score an upset win over Travis Browne next month at UFC 187. Could the same happen to Cro Cop or Gonzaga? Perhaps, and that is the beauty of MMA- you never really know what could happen. With two heavyweights known for knockout ability and having mileage and wear-and-tear put on their body, specifically in their chins, we may be primed for another highlight-reel knockout in this one. The likelihood of this going 25 minutes is very low, and it will likely be a boring contest if it goes the distance. Again, that is highly unlikely.

Will either Cro Cop or Gonzaga ever be a force again in the UFC's heavyweight division? Probably not. Does it matter these days? Probably not as well. However, fans will tune in if they think there will be a dramatic finish, and that will probably happen when Gonzaga and Cro Cop enter the Octagon for the second time to square off. That's all the UFC can ask for when booking fights, hoping for finishes and fights that get the fans talking.

We will have more on this fight card later on this week.