UFC 159: 5 Fights for Cheick Kongo to Take Next
The burly French heavyweight fell victim to a massive overhand right by Roy "Big Country" Nelson at 2:03 of the first round.
Despite a superhero-like physique and serious kickboxing skills, Kongo has never been able to put it together against upper-echelon opposition.
It's striking basics that a shorter fighter's most effective punch against taller opponents is the overhand, and Nelson made no attempts to disguise his intentions. From start to finish, Nelson remained crouched in a low stance measuring for the move.
Against top opponents, Kongo tends to shell up and become hesitant.
There are some serious deficiencies in Kongo's striking defense, but perhaps his issues are beyond minor technical adjustments.
At 37 years of age, Kongo's ability to sustain punishment is deteriorating. His body won't be able to withstand many more knockouts like the one he suffered on Saturday night, and it'll be interesting to see how he rebounds.
Here are five fights he should take next.
Winner of Stipe Miocic and Soa Palelei
The UFC could opt to put Kongo against the winner of the heavyweight showdown between Stipe Miocic and Soa Palelei at UFC 161.
Miocic was undefeated before suffering a TKO loss to Stefan Struve, and Palelei is currently riding a tidal wave of momentum with an ongoing eight-fight win streak.
A win over one of these two heavyweights would be more than enough to put Kongo's career back on track.
At only 27 years of age, there is tremendous upside for Todd Duffee
It could be time for him to test the waters in the UFC against a true veteran like Kongo.
Despite competing in the UFC for nearly seven years, Kongo has yet to climb over the hump and truly cement himself as a top-10 heavyweight.
This bout would provide Duffee with an opportunity to climb the heavyweight ranks, and it would give Kongo a chance to rebound from a disappointing loss against another tough opponent.
Winner of Shane Del Rosario and Dave Herman
Kongo is in a tough place in his career right now.
While he's quite a ways off from challenging upper-echelon heavyweights, he is still clearly a step ahead of the other opposition.
For Kongo, it's all about earning another shot at a top-10 heavyweight. A win over the winner of the UFC 162 bout between Dave Herman and Shane Del Rosario should be enough to get him that opportunity.
Lately, Ben Rothwell has been about as consistent as a checker board.
His second-round submission loss to Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC on FX 7 totals a 2-3 record in the UFC.
There was a time when Rothwell and Kongo were both considered significant threats in the heavyweight division. It's amazing how much can change in a few years.
After such a devastating loss, Kongo will probably want to get back into the Octagon as soon as possible, and Rothwell is the opponent who makes the most sense.
Gabriel Gonzaga and Cheick Kongo appear to be stuck in the same place right now.
Even though Gonzaga fought for the UFC title in 2007, he has never truly set himself apart as a legitimate heavyweight contender.
While he is undoubtedly a tough heavyweight, the brunt of his hype stems from his devastating knockout win over Mirko Cro Cop at UFC 70, which doesn't seem so impressive in hindsight.
A Gonzaga and Kongo bout would go a long way in determining who stays behind as the perennial gatekeeper for up and comers.