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
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.
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