UFC 137 Results: What Should Be Next for Cheick Kongo?

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterOctober 30, 2011

Last night at UFC 137, veteran heavyweight Cheick Kongo turned back upstart Matt Mitrione to capture a unanimous decision victory and advance his professional record to 17-6-2.

The French-Congolese fighter has long been considered a gatekeeper at heavyweight, and that's probably still an apt description. At the same time, though, after handing Mitrione the first defeat of his career, Kongo has not lost in nearly two years. And who could forget his comeback for the ages over Pat Barry earlier this summer? WIth all these positive trends lining up for the 36-year-old, what might the future hold?

For his part, Kongo said after the fight that he'd be interested in a rematch with current heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez. Though Velasquez bested Kongo by unanimous decision back in 2009 at UFC 99, Kongo had Velasquez in trouble more than once after rocking Velasquez with strikes.

The more I think about that, the more it might actually make sense--IF Velasquez happens to lose to Junior dos Santos at their forthcoming tilt at UFC on Fox 1. But that, as they say, is a bridge that can be crossed when and if it appears on the horizon.

For now, a fairly logical matchup for Kongo emerged from the other heavyweight bout from last night's main card: one Roy Nelson.

Nelson is another heavyweight who has worn the gatekeeper label over the years, nibbling around the edges of the division's upper crust. After handling Mirko Cro Cop, Nelson looked good and fought with purpose. 

Why not pit these two against each other? Who's keeping what gate? More importantly than that is the style matchup. Nelson has the propensity to stand and exchange with the kick boxer Kongo, but with his jiu-jitsu skills and smothering ground game, he's also more than equipped to take the fight horizontal if he feels he's in trouble in the vertical phase.

So it's a good test for both men, but especially for Kongo. He'll have an opportunity to score in the standup, but it won't be an unlimited window. If he can't finish, there's a chance Nelson would take Kongo into the deep water, where Kongo has drowned more than once in the past (see Velasquez).

So it's the best of all worlds. A fighter at a similar career stage who could bring out either the best or the worst (or both) in Kongo, with a clear step forward on the line. What's not to like?