Home Science Education Case-Study of Legends: Mirko “Cro Cop” vs. Wanderlei Silva

Case-Study of Legends: Mirko “Cro Cop” vs. Wanderlei Silva

Breakdown techniques and strategies: how Cro Cop knocked out Wanderlei Silva


Studying legends near their prime is extremely fun (especially when they’re facing each other) — this is the first series dissecting some of the techniques legends employed and why it was effective.

Context: Cro Cop vs Wanderlei Silva at Pride Final Absolute (Semifinals).

“Circle Away From the Rear-Hand”

Ask just about anyone with some technical insight on Southpaw vs. Orthodox match ups and they’ll generally tell you two things. As an orthodox: (a) circle away from the power hand — left-hand (b) get the lead foot outside the southpaw’s lead foot. This is an extremely advantageous and dominating position — it gets the power-hand in-line with the opponent’s head, where as the opponent’s hands are not in-line.

The same principle is true for the southpaw, but in reverse — (a) circle away from the power hand of the opponent — right-hand (b) get the lead foot outside of the orthodox’s lead foot.

However, there’s a few exceptions: The Inside Pivot Lean-Back is one of them.

Inside-Pivot, Side-Step Evade, and Counter

Against a high-level kickboxer (Cro Cop also has competitive boxing experience), getting the lead foot to the outside is only a momentary victory. It’s about keeping the lead foot there at an optimal angle. There are a few ways to react to the lead-step, and two such ways are to pivot or side-step into the opponent.

Once the inside-pivot is established, a less technical striker will think he’s got a dominant position and go for the right-hand. But due to the angle established by the pivot, the southpaw can easily shift out with an evasion.

In these cases, Wanderlei Silva swung hard enough that he’d off-balanced his rear-foot forward and consistently ate a left-hand counter. Silva was convinced that his rear-hand would land, but became completely puzzled that it didn’t — so much so that he continued to try.

In what appears to be circling to the left is actually a pivot or side-step followed by a lean-back into left-hand counter. This is an “illusionary trap”, not a technical error or sin.

*The side-step also has the effect of taking a special angle turning a southpaw vs. orthodox situation into a southpaw vs southpaw situation. But in this case it was that combined with Silva’s off-balance.

To prevent this from happening, Silva needed to pivot with Crocop first and then fire the right-hand. With the pivot, Cro Cop utilizes a pull-back or lean to consistently evade. *Johnny Nguyen of Expert Boxing also discussed these principles in his comprehensive southpaw guide

Establishing Middle and Going High

I’ve talked about this principle a whole lot lately in Southpaw vs. Orthodox matchups. Georges St-Pierre did it against Johny Hendricks; Donald Cerrone to Adriano Martins; Lyoto Machida to Mark Munoz.

Here’s a masterful example by Orono Wor Petchpun — youtube video.

This is the same setup — establishing the middle 3x, and then going high.

At this point, Silva couldn’t react to it fast enough — he was already battered, and with the mid-section rear-kick established (combined with getting the opponent to think about straight strikes seconds prior), it meant a foot to the dome for goodnight.

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