Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic will, as he usually does, walk to the cage on Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., to the strains of Duran Duran's "Wild Boys."
Which, in an odd sort of way, is appropriate, since when the bell rings to signal the start of his heavyweight match at UFC 128, he'll have a wild boy in front of him.
Have little doubt that Brendan Schaub will race out of his corner at the bell and that it won't be long before he's firing haymakers at the legendary Croatian. Schaub, who is quickly becoming one of the UFC's more entertaining heavyweights, isn't the type for a long feel-out process.
He likes to get in and get swinging.
"Fans love knockouts and there's nothing I love more than giving them what they want," said the former fullback at Colorado University, who is 7-1 overall and 3-1 in the UFC.
Schaub was a finalist on Season 10 of "The Ultimate Fighter," the UFC's reality show, a season that was dominated by the presence of former street fighter Kimbo Slice. Schaub was easily the most impressive fighter on the show until the finale, when he made a mistake and was knocked out by veteran Roy Nelson.
Though he seemed to come out of nowhere, his success on the show was no surprise to Shane Carwin, an ex-UFC interim heavyweight champion. Carwin is a long-time training partner of Schaub's and has learned first-hand how good, and how powerful, Schaub truly is.
"Until you're in there with him, you don't really notice how athletic he really is," Carwin said. "It's obvious by watching his fights that he can punch. Believe me, I understand the power in his punches as well as anyone, because I've gone toe-to-toe with him and been on the wrong end of them more than once.
"He's a well-rounded guy, but the thing that sets him apart is the power that he has and the fact that he's so hungry and wants to knock people out."
A knockout of the veteran Croatian would vault Schaub into stardom. And though he's still not among the UFC's best-known fighters – that's impossible on a roster that includes the likes of Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre, Randy Couture and Brock Lesnar – his success was somewhat predictable given his desire and tremendous athleticism.
He's one of those guys the rest of us hate. Pretty much anything he does, he's good at it and makes it look easy.
"I believe I could have competed professionally in football, lacrosse or mixed martial arts," said Schaub, who turns 28 on Friday. "But you can't spread yourself too thin. So for me, in college, it was football and I went at it hard. I was spent by the time I was through, though. Even in college, I started to get the wheels in motion to fight in MMA.
"I was training boxing and jiu-jitsu while I was in college. It's all I would think about. At night, I couldn't go to sleep. To this day, I'm still like that. It's a great passion of mine. I had some of my football buddies train with me, but they didn't have the same passion for it I did. When we'd go to football practice, I almost preferred to stay at the boxing gym."
It shows in his fights. Schaub isn't reckless, but it's also plenty clear he's not in the cage to dance. Three of his four UFC fights ended in first-round knockouts, though he was on the losing end of one of them.
He was stopped by veteran Roy Nelson at 3:45 of the first round at the TUF 10 finale when Nelson, a former International Fight League heavyweight champion, threw a counter right over a Schaub jab and knocked him down.
Nelson quickly finished the fight and ended Schaub's dream.
"I was impatient and I think I got a little too overexcited," Schaub said. "The fight was kind of moving back and forth early and then I threw a jab. It was really lazy, and that's unlike me. And after the jab, I turned my head. And believe me when I tell you, I never turn my head after I throw a jab. Never. But for whatever reason, that one time, I did it and Roy capitalized on it."
But Schaub didn't let the loss hold him back. He blew out Chase Gormley in 47 seconds at UFC on Versus 1 on March 21, 2010, then stopped Chris Tuchscherer in just 1 minute, 7 seconds at UFC 116.
He scored a convincing victory over Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 121 but was glum at the postfight news conference.
"When heavyweights go to a decision, that's a fail on both of their parts," Schaub said. "I'm out there to finish people. I see that as my job and I didn't do it that night."
That kind of attitude will quickly endear him to UFC president Dana White, who has often said he'd much rather see a guy lose a shootout rather than win a dull, slow-paced affair.
If he can get back to the finishing ways against Filipovic, one of the great heavyweights in the sport's brief history, he'll move into the upper echelon in the same rarefied air that Carwin, his training partner, occupies.
And while Schaub is far less experienced, Carwin laughed at the notion that Schaub might freeze on the big stage.
"His nickname is 'The Hybrid,' now, but when I got to know him, we dubbed him 'Showtime,' because he loves the spotlight so much," Carwin said. "The bright lights, the fame, the fortune, the expectations, he relishes that. He wants to be in those situations. I think it's going to bring the best out of him."
If he puts on a show against Filipovic, the UFC will have yet another star on its hands. But to Schaub, it's all in a day's work.
"We're supposed to go in there and be exciting and knock people out," he said. "That's what we're paid to do, particularly as heavyweights. When I don't finish, I'm not happy. And I didn't get a finish in my last fight. It's awesome for me now, fighting in this situation against a guy like Mirko. I just want to go out and take advantage of the opportunity."
- Brendan Schaub