UFC 137: Why Cheick Kongo Is the UFC's Ultimate Gatekeeper

Matthew HemphillCorrespondent IIOctober 10, 2011

Cheick Kongo is best known for his above average striking and his inadequate wrestling ability.  He is someone who has the look and the stand-up skills of a champion, but seems to lack the talent to put it all together with some decent ground work.

Early in his career he was a middling talent, but then finally worked on his ground-game to the point where he wasn't able to be taken down at will, and started putting wins together.  

However, these wins were all lower tier fighters who are no longer with the UFC.  Every time he stepped up against the likes of Frank Mir, a former heavyweight champion, or Cain Velasquez, the current heavyweight champion, he would lose badly.

At 36, it seems Kongo has found his niche in the UFC.  He is tough enough to be a credible name on any elite heavyweights résumé and just flawed enough that his weaknesses can be used against him.

Kongo has done well recently against journeyman striker Paul Buentello and former kickboxer Pat Barry, but Barry has also had a mixed career with the UFC.  In a fight with Travis Browne, in which Kongo got a draw, he looked terrible, and many thought he lost the fight.

Now Browne has gone on to beat Stefan Struve and Rob Broughton impressively.

Kongo barely got by Barry and if Browne's last two wins mean anything, it seems to show what kind of heavyweights can get by the French kickboxer.

Now the UFC seems to be wanting to test Matt Mitrione to see if he is on that level.  In truth it will be Mitrione's toughest fight as his first fights have consisted of second tier fighters like Kimbo Slice and Tim Hague.

His best opponent might just be Joey Beltran, which speaks volumes of how little Mitrione has been tested.  He has mostly stood up against other fighters and fought to entertaining decisions.

Against a gatekeeper like Kongo who only gets beaten by former and present champions it might be too much.  Plus if Mitrione tries to strike like his teammate, and Cheick Kongo's last victim, Pat Barry, he might find himself having to wake up to his first official loss.

Unless Mitrione can learn to take Kongo down, or do the unthinkable and beat him in a striking match, then Kongo will claim another win over an overrated heavyweight and continue to be the UFC champion of the gatekeepers.