A year ago, most of us had heard very little (if not nothing) of Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou. Obviously, all that quickly changed once he knocked out Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Ricardo Arona in a span of two months.
Then, everything really changed for The African Assassin. Pride FC was purchased by Zuffa and all of sudden Sokoudjou became one of the hottest free agents in mixed martial arts. First, he was rumored to sign with Elite XC and then K-1 Hero’s. Both those deals fell through and, voila, he became the latest in a long line of former Pride stars to sign with the UFC. And, much like many of those former Pride stars, he faltered in his Octagon debut.
I hadn’t heard much from the 23-year-old since his UFC 79 loss to Lyoto Machida so I called him up and basically asked: “what happened against Machida and when are you fighting next?”(By the looks of that photo he appears to be in deep contemplation mode, eh?) I also asked a couple of other things, such as:
* The difference between fighting in the UFC as opposed to competing in Pride
* His thoughts on Machida’s post-fight comments
* Why he didn’t sign with Elite XC or K-1
* What’s up with his parents not knowing that he is a mixed martial artist
* Whether he plans on ever letting the cat out of the bag
For the next couple of weeks, JarryPark.com will countdown the 15 most memorable combat sports moments of 2007. Some will be positive while others will be negative. Some will have happened in a ring or cage while others on the outside. Every day, we’ll feature a single moment as we bid adieu to ‘07. As we present each moment, feel free to agree or disagree with any of our selections in the comments section below.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering why we chose fifteen the answer is quite simple: You take the “7? from ‘07 and the “8? from ‘08, add them together and you get 15. Duh.To see the rest of the countdown click here.
#11: Cro Cropped
What: Gabriel Gonzaga stuns the MMA world by almost knocking Mirko Cro Cop’s head off
Where: Manchester Evening News Arena in Manchester, England
When: April 21, 2007
To fully appreciate the shocking sight of little-known Gabriel Gonzaga knocking out Mirko Cro Cop one must fully understand the kind of vicious fighter Cro Cop was in Pride FC. At one point in time, the former Croatian law enforcement officer was the most feared fighter in the world. Something about his stone cold demeanor and his deadly head kick KOs (ironically, the same maneuver Gonzaga used to finish him off) made some of the baddest men on the planet quiver in their shorts when he stepped in the ring. For whatever reason, that aura failed to travel with him across the globe when he signed with the UFC earlier this year. His Octagon debut was an unimpressive victory over Eddie Sanchez – a fighter most pundits believed Cro Cop would defeat in less than a minute.
Then came the bout against Gonzaga. From the moment both men entered the cage you had the sense something weird was about to happen. Cro Cop didn’t have that same killer look in his eye and Gonzaga, well, he looked unimpressed. At 4:51 of the first round MMA fans witnessed the official end of the Mirko Cro Cop era. Most would never had imagined it would go down like this. Not against Gonzaga. Not this soon. Not with a head kick. The shot heard ’round Croatia, indeed.