NEWARK - In the charting of these two heavyweight fighters, Brendan Schaub is on the way up and veteran Mirko Cro Cop is on the downswing.
Schaub, 28, carries with him a bright future and stories yet to be written. Cro Cop, 36, brings old triumphs and perceived doubts about his staying power in the UFC's big-boy division.
In a brutal, bloody slugfest at UFC 128 that went into the third round, both those graph lines continued in the same direction. Schaub landed a monstrous right hook to the side of Cro Cop's head with 77 seconds left in the fight, and Cro Cop fell to the canvas faster than he did against Gabriel Gonzaga. Schaub then added one more shot on the grounded Cro Cop for extra emphasis.
"It was my birthday yesterday so knockout of the night would be a nice gift," Schaub said.
He may get it because that was a thunderous shot that came about when Cro Cop threw a low left leg kick and left himself open.
Schaub (9-1) was more active in the first round than Cro Cop (27-9-2) and took the action to him. Cro Cop was solid defensively and landed several good shots including an upkick to Schaub's grill but it didn't do too much damage.
After warning Schaub for an illegal hit to the back of Cro Cop's head in the first round, referee Herb Dean deducted a point in the second round for another blow to the back of the head by Schaub. Both shots came while standing in the clinch against the cage.
Cro Cop, who has faced many questions about where his career is headed -- this is his second straight loss by third-round KO -- fought ably in this bout at the Prudential Center. He looked like there's a little more fight in him. After that knockout, who knows?