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Kongo to the Top of the Heavyweight Mound

Cheick KongoLost between the retirement talk of Chuck Liddell and the debacle of Silva-Leites was the surprising arrival of Cheick Kongo as a possible contender at heavyweight.

For whatever reason Kongo’s status within the heavyweight division has altered dramatically as the MMA blogosphere and UFC fans consider the Frenchman’s status within the heavyweight division.

Kongo’s most notable win is over Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic. After that win the Frenchmen failed to beat heavyweight gatekeeper Heath Herring. But with a three fight win streak and no obvious number one contender some are considering Kongo a legitimate choice.

Brent Brookhouse of BloodyElbow puts forth the argument that Kongo’s marketability will never be higher and that the UFC should cash in on it immediately. The UFC may be less then thrilled at the possibility of giving a title shot to a less established fighter. Especially after what happened with Leites-Silva. It’s not hard to imagine Kongo employing a equally neutral strategy against the physical Lesnar or a flop fest with Frank Mir.

Ultimately the lack of a contender is connected to the issue of depth. An fact that has long since plagued the UFC’s heavyweight division. The mini-prix the UFC set up between Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir, Randy Couture and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is coming to a close. Yet when it ends, at UFC 100, there will be no fighter ready to take the mantle of number one contender. Nogueira and Couture both looked lackluster in their respective fights and assuming that neither is unbelievably dominant it may be safe to assume that neither will be ready for a title shot by December. Each fighters’ age may also be a factor in preventing a speedy turnaround for a late year fight card.

Who does that leave to challenge the victor of Lesnar-Mir?

The obvious answer would come from the UFC’s rising trifecta of Cain Velasquez, Shane Carwin and Junior dos Santos. But are these young fighters developed enough, both talent-wise and marketing-wise, to illicit a title shot?

Velasquez will face Heath Herring at UFC 99 and depending on the outcome we will know what quality of fighter the former Arizona State wrestler is. For whatever reason the UFC felt it was necessary to back-tech with Junior dos Santos and now he is facing Justin McCully. Not exactly a primer fight for a title shot. Carwin knocked out Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 96 and has no opponent for his next fight. But Carwin has just now started training full time. Are his skills refined enough to face a Mir’s grappling or Lesnar’s brute force?

Unfortunately the UFC let go a stable crop of heavyweight names that could of filled or at least help refine the divisional picture. While Zuffa was vindicated in their actions, due to high salaries and boring fights, perhaps it would have been prudent to keep Fabricio Werdum around a little bit longer to test one of the trifecta in a more marketed manner rather than dos Santos’ sudden knockout victory.

What truly makes the most sense right now is for Kongo to face Shane Carwin as Shawn at Fightlinker suggested. Coupled with the appropriate marketing and build up the fight could be a nice addition to the UFC 101, 102 or 103. Especially as a third fight for number one contender status. Though it may be prudent for the UFC not to announce that before hand or face an Arlovksi-Werdum fight where they are forced to back track due to dullness.

Patience is what is truly required in the heavyweight division right now. While we may grate under the lack of knowledge or certainty the picture will become more clear. Let us hope that in order to achieve clarity we don’t have to be blinded with ineptitude similar to Thales Leites and Anderson Silva.

Zak Woods is the founder of the mixed martial arts blog Image courtesy of

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UFC Fight Night 98: Dos Anjos vs. Ferguson

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