Fedor Emelianenko vs. Mirko Cro Cop | PRIDE Final Conflict 2005
Before its fall and eventual demise, the PRIDE Fighting Championships were the leading force in Mixed Martial Arts. The pageantry, the athletes, all the heart that was shown in the gritty battles in the ring, it all came together and showed how beloved PRIDE was and all it did for the MMA community.
While PRIDE is better known for its unique ruleset (still used in promotions such as RIZIN to this day), its Grand Prix tournaments and freakshow fights, the promotion did have champions for weight divisions — even if said championships weren’t defended as often. But one of these title fights, a battle between two of the greatest men to ever step foot inside a cage or a ring — Fedor Emelianenko and Mirko Filipovic (aka Mirko Cro Cop) — will forever go down as not only arguably the greatest fight that PRIDE FC ever had, but arguably the greatest MMA fight that has ever been held, period.
Emelianenko, who defeated Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (“Big Nog”) for the PRIDE heavyweight title in 2003 and retained it against him in the 2004 PRIDE Heavyweight Grand Prix, was attempting to make it 20 straight fights in a row without a loss in this fight. Filipovic, meanwhile, had won seven in a row and nine of his last 10 since coming up short to Nogueira in an interim title bout.
Emelianenko and Filipovic had intense trading from the get-go and throughout the rest of that 10-minute first round. While Emelianenko tried to get on the more aggressive end right away, he transitioned into working from the back foot and trying to land from distance. It was working well until Filipovic caught him (and plenty watching) off guard by landing a couple of hard shots on Emelianenko, busting up his nose. Filipovic, however, wasn’t able to finish the job.
Emelianenko’s body took quite a beating from Filipovic’s blows, but when Emelianenko was able to start to get takedowns on Filipovic, Emelianenko began to take more and more control. And while he was the more bruised and battered fighter upon the end of the first, Filipovic looked gassed. And over the next two five-minute rounds, Filipovic continued to fade, while Emelianenko’s striking outperformed and he continued to successfully land takedowns and control the fight’s pacing and direction.
Emelianenko would win a unanimous decision to retain the heavyweight title, but both men earned praises from fans and critics across the globe, with this fight earning several Fight of the Year and Fight of the Decade honors.
Speaking of that previously mentioned interim title fight…