Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC 137 Preview: Cheick Kongo vs. Matt Mitrione

Throughout my experimentation with SILVA, I’ve produced some ratings that make a lot of sense, some that were very accurate, some that were way off, and some that just seemed bizarre.

But nothing has been questioned more than the SILVA score for Matt Mitrione.

That’s right, look at the SILVA scores page, and you’ll find the following top 5 for heavyweight:

  1. Cain Velasquez – 56.49
  2. Daniel Cormier – 54.11
  3. Matt Mitrione – 50.40
  4. Junior dos Santos – 48.61
  5. Josh Barnett – 47.76

Now, it could be said that Daniel Cormier’s rating as an “elite” heavyweight BEFORE his fight against Jeff Monson was validated, and his status as a top 3 heavyweight according to SILVA seemed very accurate during his first-round drubbing of Antonio Silva. But for many critics, Matt Mitrione’s place BETWEEN Cormier and Junior dos Santos is completely unjustifiable. How in the world would any reputable rating system place “Meathead” ahead of Junior dos Santos?

Well, keep in mind that I designed SILVA to be predictive in nature, as opposed to ranking systems, which are descriptive in nature. I certainly wouldn’t have Mitrione (or Cormier) in the top 5 of a descriptive ranking system. But Mitrione has some very remarkable things going for him. Consider the following:

  • On The Ultimate Fighter, as a 0-0 participant, Mitrione defeated a very respectable veteran in Scott Junk in his first fight
  • Mitrione made his professional debut against a 4-1 Marcus Jones and won by KO; most fighters who debut against a winning opponent lose
  • Mitrione is the first fighter since Mark Coleman to debut in the UFC and win his first five fights
  • Mitrione has done all of this in his first two years as a professional MMA fighter; most fighters badly struggle to beat UFC-quality competition in their first two years

The point is that Mitrione is way ahead of the curve as an MMA fighter. Fighters in their fifth fight aren’t supposed to be crushing Christian Morecraft or Tim Hague the way Mitrione did. Even now, it’s over a month before Mitrione enters the third year of his career and enters what I approximate to be the prime of a professional mixed martial artist.

What’s been remarkable about Mitrione is that he’s steadily improved his striking technique a tremendous amount. Instead of winging wild haymakers, as he did early in his career, Mitrione now throws crisp, straight punches. And as Mitrione is a big, 265-pound heavyweight, he doesn’t need to throw very hard to throw with power. The result is that Mitrione has four TKO wins, and one by decision, and the decision was against Joey Beltran, who doesn’t lose by KO.

So Mitrione’s SILVA score isn’t a statement that he has been the world’s third-best heavyweight, it’s a prediction that he will be the third-best heavyweight. And his next opponent will be Cheick Kongo, a UFC veteran and a guy who knows a thing or two about striking himself.

My take on Kongo in the past is that he’s been something of a fraud. Not in the sense that he can’t fight, but in the idea that he’s a great heavyweight fighter. Check out the list of opponents he’s beaten in the UFC:

  • Gilbert Aldana, UFC 61
  • Christian Wellisch, UFC 62
  • Assuerio Silva, UFC 70
  • Mirko Cro Cop, UFC 75
  • Dan Evensen, UFC 87
  • Mustapha Al-Turk, UFC 92
  • Antoni Hardonk, UFC 97
  • Paul Buentello, UFC on Versus 1
  • Pat Barry, UFC on Versus 4

I’m sorry, but even with Mirko Cro Cop on that list, that’s not exactly a who’s who of great UFC heavyweights, and even the Cro Cop win was marred by multiple Kongo knees to the groin. When Kongo stepped up in competition, against Cain Velasquez and Frank Mir, he lost badly both times. (As an aside: I do not understand the idea that Kongo put up such a fight against Velasquez. He hit Velasquez with a couple of hard punches early in the first and second round of that fight, and was dominated for the remainder. Don’t be fooled.)

Now, after spending so much time showering Mitrione with praise, and showering Kongo with scorn, I’m going to point out that Kongo is a very dangerous opponent for Mitrione. While I believe that Kongo falls short against tough competition, one thing he does have is the ability to knock out his opponents, as he did to Pat Barry. If Mitrione gets over-confident, he could be on the receiving end of a strong KO punch.

SILVA PREDICTION: MATT MITRIONE (50.40) OVER CHEICK KONGO (29.79)

But I don’t think it’s going to happen. At this point in his career, Matt Mitrione is still improving as a fighter, and he’s already been pretty darn good. If this is completely a standup striking battle, then Kongo could end up winning, but if Mitrione uses his wrestling to go along with his striking, then I definitely like him to win all the way.

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