In a Heavyweight showdown, Matt Mitrione (5-0; 5-0 UFC) meets Cheick Kongo (16-6-2; 9-4-1 UFC) at UFC 137: Penn vs. Diaz. This is the co-main event of the evening. The USA Today/BE Consensus Rankings currently has Kongo ranked at #13 in the Heavyweight division and Mitrione at #18. The PPV begins at 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT.
This is the kind of fight Kongo has been in before. He's the gatekeeper to the upper ranks of the UFC Heavyweight division, while Mitrione looks to get past him. Fighters who beat Kongo have moved into the title picture, such as Frank Mir and Cain Velasquez. But those who lose (Paul Buentello, Pat Barry) see their runs to the top halted, possibly permanently. This is a big test for Mitrione, and one he needs to pass to keep his fast rise moving.
How do these two stack up?
Mitrione: 33 years old | 6'3" | 82" reach
Kongo: 36 years old | 6'4" | 82" reach
What have these two done recently?
Mitrione: W - Christian Morecraft (KO) | W - Tim Hague (TKO) | W - Joey Beltran (UD)
Kongo: W - Pat Barry (KO) | D - Travis Browne (Draw) | W - Paul Buentello (TKO)
How did these two get here?
Matt Mitrione is an unlikely Ultimate Fighter success story. During season 10, he didn't show much beyond a personality that rubbed many the wrong way. But since the show, he has gone undefeated, taking out an increasingly difficult level of opponent. He's in the rare position of having fought every professional fight in the UFC, and for him to have a perfect 5-0 record in that situation is impressive. Still, Kongo is his toughest opponent to date by far. A win here will put Mitrione into a major fight next time out.
Cheick Kongo has been just outside the very top of the division for almost the entirety of his 5 year UFC run. He's long settled into his spot as the gatekeeper to the top. Kongo brings in a strong kickboxing background, but also has added good ground skills to round out his game. Against strikers, Kongo is happy to drag the fight to the ground and make his opponent uncomfortable. He's also coming off a spectacular KO victory over Mitrione's good friend Pat Barry - a fight that is sure to play heavily on both men's minds leading into this encounter.
Why should you care?
This is the moment to find out if Mitrione is for real. Is he a future title challenger, or has he reached the limit of his skills? I honestly don't know the answer, but this fight will go a long way towards figuring it out.
More UFC 137 preview coverage from Bloody Elbow after the jump.
UFC 137 Weigh In Video: BJ Penn and Nick Diaz Almost Come To Blows - Matthew Roth
UFC 137: Mirko Cro Cop vs. Roy Nelson Dissection - Dallas Winston
UFC 137 Penn vs Diaz: Staff Predictions
UFC 137 Weigh-In Video and Results - Tim Burke
UFC 137: Cheick Kongo vs. Matt Mitrione Dissection - Dallas Winston
UFC 137: Scott Jorgensen vs. Jeff Curran Dissection - Dallas Winston
Judo Chop: B.J. Penn's Back Control - Ben Thapa
UFC 137: The Sober Reality of Nick Diaz's Continued Presence in MMA - Leland Roling
UFC 137: Dana White Video Blog, Part 2 - Matthew Roth
Judo Chop: Nick Diaz's Ground Game - Ben Thapa
UFC 137: George Roop vs. Hatsu Hioki Dissection - Dallas Winston
UFC 137 Striking Breakdown: Mirko Cro Cop Filipovic - Fraser Coffeen
UFC 137 Press Conference Recap: Jon Anik to Broadcast Booth, UFC on Fox Undercard on Facebook and Fox.com - Brent Brookhouse
UFC 137 Video: B.J. Penn Challenges Cesar Gracie, Admits to Being 'Hookwinked' By Him - Tim Burke
UFC 137: Roy Nelson 'I'd Have to Cut Off A Leg To Make 205' - Matthew Roth
Bad Boy Presents Bloody Elbow Radio - Episode 92: UFC 137 Preview - Matt Bishop
UFC 137 Video: Nick Diaz Goes In-Depth About Press Conference Fiasco, Not Loving Fighting - Tim Burke
UFC 137: The Card That Could Have Been and the PPV Repercussions - Matthew Roth
UFC 137 Video: B.J. Penn Talks Fighting Nick Diaz and Future Title Shots - Brent Brookhouse
UFC 137: B.J. Penn Explains Lack of Hype for Nick Diaz Fight - Brent Brookhouse
UFC 137: Nick Diaz Wishes He'd Stuck to Boxing Plans - Brent Brookhouse
UFC 137: George Roop Discusses Bout With Hatsu Hioki, Death of Shawn Tompkins - Tim Burke
UFC 137 Video: Danny Downes Fighter Diary In Preparation for Ramsey Nijem - Anton Tabuena
UFC 137: Tyson Griffin vs. Bart Palaszewski Dissection - Dallas Winston
UFC 137: Penn vs. Diaz Betting Lines - Tim Burke
UFC 137: Penn vs. Diaz Countdown Video - Tim Burke
UFC 137: Dennis Siver vs. Donald Cerrone Dissection - Dallas Winston
UFC 137: Matt Mitrione's Rapid Rise the Exception, Not the Rule - Leland Roling
UFC 137 Roundtable: Analyzing Nick Diaz's Chances Against B.J. Penn
UFC 137: Nick Diaz Discusses Looking Up to B.J. Penn, Gameplanning - Tim Burke
UFC 137: Breaking Down the Striking of Matt Mitrione - Fraser Coffeen
UFC 137: B.J. Penn Not Offended By Nick Diaz At All - Tim Burke
UFC 137: Penn vs. Diaz - Best Bets for Fight of the Night - Brent Brookhouse
UFC 137: Donald Cerrone's Unlikely Run May Land Him in Title Contention - Leland Roling
UFC 137: Facebook Card Dissection - Dallas Winston
UFC 137: Dana White Video Blog, Part 1 - Tim Burke
UFC 137: Cesar Gracie - If Nick Diaz Finishes B.J. Penn, He Should Get GSP Next - Tim Burke