In just one of the many recent efforts put forth by the world’s top mixed martial arts promotion, UFC on Versus 4: Kongo vs. Barry barreled through Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania leaving no fan disappointed. The main card was opened by two Goliaths of the heavyweight division clawing at each other as they advance up the mountain. A fighter whose strikes are known to end all who stand in his way would meet against a man who does not accept defeat without a fight. The co-main event was saved when a hometown hero stepped up to face one of the fastest rising stars in the welterweight division. Finally in the main event, two of the biggest and most dangerous strikers collide in a highly anticipated heavyweight match-up. In the wake of a significant win for a top contender, the question most often posed for him is “What’s next?” Here is a brief recap of the events that took place in what turned out to be arguably one of the most unforgettable cards in recent memory, and the matches those respective winners could very well themselves undertaking in the future.
Matt Mitrione (5-0) defeats Christian Morecraft (7-2) via Knockout, Round 2
The always calm Matt Mitrione added another victory and knockout to his record when he put the younger Christian Morecraft on the shelf in the main card opener. Early leg kicks and cleaner punches proved that Mitrione was the more sound fighter that night. Morecraft appeared to be out in the first round when he was dropped to the mat rudely, but was able to recover and get on top of the former NFL star long enough to survive to the second before three more punches did him in.
The athleticism and performances of Mitrione show that he will remain a threat in the heavyweight division. Should he keep this up, he just might seem himself in contention for the belt sooner rather than later, though he likely still has a long way to go. “Big Country” Roy Nelson’s (15-6) girth might be an issue that hinders him, but that doesn’t count him out from being a game fighter with great hands and ground game to boot. Also on the outskirts of the division’s upper echelon are Brendan Schaub (7-1) and recent top contender “The Engineer” Shane Carwin (11-2), either of whom could really put “Meathead” to the test with their heavy hands and solid chins. Mitrione might be taking each day one step at a time but with five one-sided victories to his name, perhaps a step up in competition is needed.
“The Immortal” Matt Brown (12-10) defeats “Doomsday” John Howard (14-7) via Unanimous Decision
It was a make-or-break fight for both men but when it came down to it, Matt Brown played to his moniker of staying alive and earned the decision victory. The Muay Thai practitioner Howard used leg kicks early in the fight and tried to grapple with The Ultimate Fighter alum, but Brown showed his striking and improved wrestling would be the key factors in determining the winner. Winning his fair share of strikes and threatening Howard with multiple submissions such as the Omoplata and D’arce Choke, Brown deservingly earned his victory in the Octagon.
Matt Brown said it himself that he has the tools needed to win but he disregarded them in the efforts to “kill” his opponents. Such a humble statement to say but a fight that can really showcase these once neglected tools has to be done in order to show consistency. “The Horror” Rick Story (11-3) definitely can bang with the best of them up but he is a wrestler true to heart. Brown could win the battle on the feet, but if he truly has been working on his submission and wrestling deficit, Story can bring that out of him. Even then, “The Pitbull” Thiago Alves (17-8) has been inconsistent with his performances in the cage. A fight between them does not promise a title shot but Brown’s striking will not only be tested, but his chances to really press forward with wrestling will be open when battling the Muay Thai artist.
“The Spaniard” Charlie Brenneman (14-2) defeats “The Horror” Rick Story (11-3) via Unanimous Decision
When the art of wrestling is in discussion, the terms “lay-and-pray” and “boring” are tossed around more often than anything positive. Tonight was not the case. When “The Spaniard’s” original opponent TJ Grant (14-5) fell ill and “The Great” Nate Marquardt (31-10-2) was shockingly cut from the UFC after failing his pre-fight medical tests due to undisclosed reasons, Charlie Brenneman would step up to face Rick Story and save the co-main event. In a highly competitive battle, Brenneman would outwrestle his fellow wrestler for all three rounds, surprisingly bringing Story down multiple times with ease. Clearly frustrated, Story was unable to effectively buck off the native Pennsylvanian from bottom position. While Story did have a few submissions locked in such as a North-South Choke and a bevy of Triangles and Guillotines, Brenneman’s composure and ability to scramble lead him to escape and regain dominance of the dogfight. By the time the final bell rang it was “The Spaniard” taking the fight in a clean sweep.
Charlie Brenneman not only stopped the six-fight win streak Rick Story was on, he stifled the impact of Story’s win over Thiago Alves and essentially replaced him on the welterweight ladder. Credit him with the fact that he took the fight on one day’s notice and he earned an entire multitude of respect. At this point, he can move up the ladder from where Story left off and possibly challenge the higher contenders such as the winner or loser between “The Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit (26-5) and “Stun Gun” Dong Hyun Kim (17-4-3) in their UFC 132 match-up. If he needs one more fight to prove that this win was not just a spur of the moment luck of the draw, “The Prince” Claude Patrick has respectable stand-up but a sinister ground game that can challenge Brenneman’s wrestling. Patrick is on a three-fight win streak and Brenneman essentially stole the momentum Story was on. A win over the other would only launch them higher into the cream of the 170lbs. crop.
Cheick Kongo (16-6-2) defeats “HD” Pat Barry (5-4) via Knockout, Round 1
After aimlessly dwindling in the middle of the heavyweight picture, Cheick Kongo was able to make a statement when he knocked out lethal kickboxer Pat Barry through a second-round devastating right uppercut. The early moments of the opening round began with caution – each man exchanging leg kicks waiting to find an opportunity to advance on. An overhand right from Barry would connect on Kongo and leave him struggling to survive. Barry would continue to pursue the dazed Parisian until Kongo landed a well-executed uppercut on Barry’s chin, knocking him out cold instantly halfway through the first stanza. At age 36, Kongo still has a solid chin and although he was losing the fight prior to punch, he also has much to offer still within the heavyweight division.
Now that Kongo has alerted the entire division that he is still alive and kicking, fighters will either be calling him out or be called out themselves. Kongo has been relatively inconsistent in his past four showings, dropping a loss apiece to current champion Cain Velasquez (9-0) and former champ Frank Mir (15-5). If this win should really raise his stock, an equal or higher-ranked fighter needs to be there to really prove it. Shane Carwin might have lost some ground with two consecutive defeats but against a fellow striker, he would be given the opportunity to redeem himself and stall any further drops in rank. Of course should Kongo be the one victorious, he would then rise up slightly in the food chain. Matt Mitrione though is a good friend of Pat Barry and as training partners share camaraderie like no other; “Meathead” may very well call out the Wolfslair striker in an attempt to avenge his friend’s loss. If the UFC is looking to set up Kongo with a potential firefight, the heavy-handed and eccentric “Pee Wee” Dave Herman (19-2) would likely fill those shoes nicely, or if revenge is the name of the game, Kongo vs. Mir II could be next on the Parisian’s agenda.
Pat Barry for having the substantially shorter reach was dominating the much taller and physically imposing Kongo for the short time the match went on before getting clipped. For also addressing his weakness in wrestling by training with the predominant heavyweight Camp DeathClutch, Barry still has much to offer the UFC despite this disappointing loss. He now shares the same boat with “Skyscraper” Stefan Struve (18-5) who was on his own tear in the division before his one-punch knockout loss to “Hapa” Travis Browne (8-0-1). Struve would hold the definite height and reach advantage but Barry can find range quickly and advance as he did with Kongo. Should Struve try to bring Barry down, then he can be the first to test the newly refined takedown and submission defense of the Roufusport protégé.