UFC 137 Fight Card: What Cheick Kongo Must Do to Beat Matt Mitrione
Since dropping back-to-back fights to Cain Velasquez and Frank Mir in 2009, Kongo has been considered the UFC heavyweight division's unofficial gatekeeper, and he has been struggling to make his way back into title contention.
While defeating Mitrione tonight will not put Kongo in line for a title shot, it would put him on a four-fight unbeaten streak, and would likely prove to UFC matchmaker Joe Silva that he is once again ready to face some of the division's top contenders.
Mitrione is a tricky opponent, though, and no one has been able to figure him out so far.
Although Mitrione only has had five professional fights, he is a dangerous fighter, and Kongo will need to take him very seriously if he wants to walk away the victor.
Kongo certainly has all the tools required to take Mitrione out—it's just a matter of using those tools properly.
A European-style kickboxer, Kongo is one of the most dangerous and technical strikers in the heavyweight division and has tremendous power in his hands.
There is no questioning that Kongo is the better all-around striker, but Mitrione arguably has the better striking defense.
Mitrione is light on his feet, with quick footwork, and good head movement. This allows Mitrione to move in and out of his opponents' range with surprising quickness, and we've seen some fighters thrown off by that.
If Kongo can take away some of Mitrione's movement, he can win this fight easily.
He needs to cut off the Octagon and force Mitrione to move backwards, rather than letting him circle or move side to side.
If Kongo can get Mitrione to move back and get him stuck against the cage, Mitrione will have no choice but to try to match speed and power with Kongo.
That's a fight that Mitrione can't win.
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