Cheick Kongo Makes Comeback in More Ways Than One: Why He Needed That Win
Fans were expecting an even better stand-up war when former kickboxers Cheick Kongo and Pat Barry were promoted from co-main event to the main event of UFC Live on Verus 4.
They got that and more after Kongo came back from being knocked down twice to land his own devastating right hand to put Barry to sleep, all under three minutes.
Kongo entered the bout with a lot of pressure to perform, and he was forced to be better than ever in the first UFC main event of his 10-year professional career.
He might have been one punch away from losing all credibility in the division, but he was also one punch away from saving it.
This is why we love the sport and why Kongo made a comeback in more ways than one.
No. 5: First Main Event Adds Pressure to Perform
Although Kongo has been in the UFC since 2006, he had never been part of a main event.
Due to his up-and-down career in the organization, he never really got past that hump to make it into a main event.
Losses to Cain Velasqez, Heath Herring, Frank Mir and Carmello Marello were sprinkled in-between his eight victories inside the Octagon. His only back-to-back losses were from Velasquez and Mir, who are both in the top 10.
In the main event, you are forced to perform more than had you just been in an undercard bout. Whatever Kongo's game plan was beforehand, he chose to stand with Barry, who arguably has the worst ground game in the division.
Some were expecting Kongo to exploit that part of Barry's game, but he chose to keep it standing, which ultimately payed off for him in the most exciting fight of his career.
No. 4: Back in the Mix
Throughout Kongo's UFC career, he put on two and three-fight win streaks against many overmatched opponents who didn't last much longer in the organization.
His two biggest wins before this one were his fights against Mirko Cro Cop and Antoni Hardonk. Barry also fought both of them, defeating Hardonk and losing to Cro Cop.
Even though this wasn't a top contender fight, fans like to see exciting heavyweight bouts, and this one delivered.
Kongo may not get a top 10 opponent next, but fights against Matt Mitrione and Dave Herman may be on the table for him.
Don't be surprised if one of them gets matched up with Kongo in a main event.
If Joe Silva is excited to take advantage of the type of energy surrounding Kongo right now, he may even get to fight someone like former UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar.
No. 3: Erases Memory of Past Losses and Draw
Kongo's knockout was so spectacular, it's easy to forget how close he was to being finished just 30 seconds before he landed his right hand.
In his last fight versus Travis Browne, Kongo was criticized for his performance and somewhat dirty tactics of grabbing onto his opponent's shorts constantly throughout the bout. It resulted in a draw after Kongo had a point deducted, and many people had thought he lost.
It has been over two years since Kongo has had an impressive victory, but he erases all the memory of the back-to-back losses to Velasquez and Mir with the victory over Barry.
No. 2: Silences the Critics
There were many critics of Kongo for under-performing in past bouts, including his victories.
With this kind of riveting knockout ending, he puts an end to any criticism he received earlier in his career for not winning the biggest fights and performing well when it really mattered.
Kongo never really had the type of win that was talked about for days and weeks to come. This is sure to be one that isn't soon forgotten and may go down as the best comeback knockout in the history of the UFC.
For him to be associated with that is something special.
No. 1: Bragging Rights
It was regarded as one of the best kickboxer vs. kickboxer matchups in the history of the UFC, and it's true.
Kongo ended his kickboxer career in 2005 with a 22-2 record and12 knockouts while Barry had fought from 2002 to 2008 and compiled a 18-6 record.
Both showed their stand-up skills in the bout, and it was the power of Kongo that ultimately won him the fight. Barry showed the killer instinct he lacked in earlier bouts and payed for it.
With the win, Kongo becomes the first man to knock out Barry in either sport, and that is impressive considering the type of shape he was in before landing the right hand.
Backpedaling and leaning backwards, Kongo threw an uppercut that landed flush on Barry's chin, knocking him unconscious. Barry can say he got the better of him and just got caught, but it's who wins that matters.