By CagePotato Guest Contributor Mike Schmitz
For over a year and a half, Matt Mitrione has been all smiles.
After debuting against Marcus Jones at the Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale on December 5, 2009, he has racked up five wins – with four knockouts – while becoming a fan-favorite along the way. Despite the football mileage on his 32-year-old once injury-riddled body, Meathead is on the rise in the world of mixed martial arts. Mitrione will finally face his first big test at UFC 137 where he’ll take on 6-foot-4, 230-pound juggernaut Cheick Kongo.
Like Meathead, Kongo is coming off of a knockout victory at UFC on Versus 4 where he pulled off one of the most stunning comebacks in UFC history by knocking out Mitrione’s training partner Pat Barry. Although both fighters won their last respective bouts and will be riding the momentum into their match-up, Mitrione isn’t nearly as experienced or tested as Kongo, which could play a factor.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago that Kongo was a bit of a reach for Mitrione’s next fight and that “Meathead” would be better off facing a Dave Herman-level fighter.
But now that Dana White announced the Kongo-Mitrione bout, it’s time for Matt to prove he’s ready for the next level of competition. This is the fight that could catapult him into the upper echelon of heavyweight fighters.
If Meathead comes up empty handed against Kongo, however, his 5-0 start will be seen as meaningless and he’ll be called overhyped. His success will be attributed to a weak schedule and he’ll be thought of as an unpolished fighter with a long way to go before contention.
But if Mitrione defeats Kongo, he’ll skyrocket up the MMA heavyweight power rankings, while avenging his teammate’s loss along the way.
So the question is, when these two finally meet in the Octagon, how will this fight shape up?
Although fundamentally they’re both from completely different backgrounds, Mitrione and Kongo’s skill sets are nearly identical in a lot of ways. With that said, Mitrione’s weaknesses– takedown defense and ground game – may not leave him exposed in this fight as Kongo suffers from inexperience on the ground as well.
Before Kongo and Frank Mir faced off at UFC 107, Mir called the Frenchman out for his non-existent ground game, and proved it by making Kongo tap just 72 seconds into the fight. So although Kongo is a step up in competition for Mitrione, his supposed holes shouldn’t be tested due to Kongo’s similarly limited skill set.
This fight should be a slugfest. Both fighters have extremely heavy hands and Kongo has only been knocked out once in 24 fights. Some could argue he was basically knocked out against Barry, but he bounced back to win the fight by KO nonetheless.
It will basically be a clash of strength versus strength and power versus power. Whoever has the heavier hands, the stronger chin and the faster strikes will prevail.
With all of that said, I’d put my money on Mitrione.
Sure the competition he’s faced is questionable and he’s not nearly as seasoned as Kongo, but has Kongo really been lights out as of late?
Less than two years ago he was riding a two-fight skid – losses to Cain Velasquez and Mir – into a bout against Paul Buentello. He was flirting with irrelevance and snuck by Buentello before his fight with Travis Browne ended in a draw seven months later.
Sure Kongo is on the positive end of one of the more memorable comebacks in UFC history after knocking out Barry, but “HD” outfought him for all but 20 seconds of the fight. Had that one punch not connected, Kongo could very well be 1-3-1 in his last five fights.
Mitrione, on the other hand, has been victorious in convincing fashion. He made easy work of Christian Morecraft in a fight he described as one of the worst of his career. Mitrione also has the benefit of having Barry in his ear telling him exactly how to fight the Frenchman.
So although their history would suggest that Kongo has the advantage, Mitrione could very well have his hand raised on Oct 29. Regardless of who ends up on top, we’ll know exactly where Mitrione stands after UFC 137.
Train with Mitrione at TapouT VTC
Train with Matt Mitrione at TapouT VTC where members get access to endless hours of MMA training videos from the top mixed martial arts pros. Members also get nutritional plans, fitness tips, a 21-day workout plan from strengths and conditioning coaches as well as exclusive access to behind-the-scenes interviews and much more. Mitrione teaches a Standup Module and Grappling Module that include the following courses: Jab, Angles for a Lefty, Proper Angles for Inside Leg Kick, Takedown Against Cage, Sprawl, Upside Guard Sweep, Upside Down Guard to Ground and Pound, Guard Pass, Inverted Crucifix, and Knees From Side Mount. Learn from Mitrione and over 25 other top pros at TapouT VTC today.