The main event of the UFC’s fourth Versus event will now be a heavyweight battle between two strikers in Pat Barry and Cheick Kongo. Barry has staked his place in the UFC as an entertaining, likable fighter with thunderous leg kicks and tremendous power. In his UFC debut, he made Dan Evensen quit due to leg kicks. In his following fight, he hurt Tim Hague before being foolishly caught in a guillotine choke. After that, he won a thrilling war against fellow striker Antoni Hardonk.
If this fight is a striking match, I have to favor Barry to win. Even though Kongo has a notable striking background, I think Barry throws with much more power. As much as Mirko Cro Cop has faded as a fighter, he still knows the striking game very well, and Barry crushed Cro Cop with punches early in their fight at UFC 115. Barry really is one of the better strikers in the UFC heavyweight division.
The problem is that, as always, this is an MMA match, not a kickboxing match. And in MMA, Kongo has just found more success against good opponents. That’s not to say Kongo has a long list of great victories: too many of his UFC fights have been against the likes of Mustapha Al-Turk and Dan Evensen. Then again, another look at the list of Kongo’s victories finds his UFC 75 win against Mirko Cro Cop, and then… not a whole lot of greatness after that. Paul Buentello? Assuerio Silva? Christian Wellisch? So when I say Kongo “has just found more success against good opponents,” I mean “Kongo has a win against Mirko Cro Cop whereas Pat Barry lost to Cro Cop.”
I’m very confident about where Pat Barry rates at this point. Barry’s current SILVA score is a respectable but not overly impressive 26.65. He has losses to Tim Hague (32.21) and Cro Cop (27.03) to go along with winning a close fight against Joey Beltran (30.15) and surviving to beat Hardonk. At best, Barry is a mid-tier UFC fighter, which is exactly where I think Cheick Kongo is.
Unlike Barry, Kongo has options in this fight. More often than not, Kongo chooses to clinch with his opponents and beat them up with knees (and not-so-seldom strikes to the groin). He’s also been known to take down strikers and hurt them with ground and pound, as he did to Hardonk and Buentello. It’ll be up to Barry to stay out of the clinch, defend takedown attempts, and effectively strike at distance.
SILVA PREDICTION: CHEICK KONGO (29.79) OVER PAT BARRY (26.65)
I actually think Barry has a more than decent chance in this fight. Much of Cheick Kongo’s record is smoke and mirrors; the win against Cro Cop isn’t very impressive in retrospect (if you watch the fight, you’ll see that Kongo’s win was aided by his infamous groin strikes), and this is a guy who’s lost to Heath Herring and was decimated by Frank Mir. Besides that, Pat Barry is the fan-favorite going in, and in a close fight, there’s a good chance that the judges would decide to give the nod to the popular guy. No, I don’t trust these judges as far as I can throw them. Kongo is the pick to win, but it’s a pick made with shaky confidence.