INDIANAPOLIS - SEPTEMBER 25: (R-L) Matt Mitrione kicks Joey Beltran during their UFC heavyweight bout at Conseco Fieldhouse on September 25 2010 in Indianapolis Indiana. (Photo by Al Bello/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
UFC heavyweight Matt Mitrione is a bit of a mystery. Yes, he wears his personality on his sleeve and his strengths and weaknesses are very clear, but he’s only been training for two-and-a-half years and has five victories over opponents that fall in the "good-not-great" category.
His likable personality, octagon demeanor and knockout-ready hands have made him one of UFC’s most popular fighters in less than a two-year span. But Mitrione is admittedly still learning, pointing to "glaring holes" in his takedown defense and ground game.
He’s also yet to face a top-tier UFC heavyweight and wasn’t impressed with his performance in his knockout victory over Christian Morecraft at UFC on Versus 4, citing over-training as the biggest issue. But the mystery attached to Mitrione’s game and potential will finally be solved at UFC 137 after his "Sexy" bout with Cheick Kongo.
"This fight makes a lot of sense for me," Mitrione told MMAmania.com (via TapouT VTC) in an exclusive interview. "I think at this point of my career, if I get in there and I’m fortunate enough to put hands on him and really do work on him then people will say ‘Okay, now we know that Matt’s legit.’ If I go in there and get my ass kicked it’s like ‘alright, Matt needs more development’ or, ‘Matt might be a flash in the pan against better competition.’ I really get to see that and see where I’m at and I think that’s going to be a lot of fun."
Mitrione will indeed find out where he stands at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Oct. 29, 2011, as the 36-year-old Kongo is sure to make "Meathead" work. One thig the Frenchman has proved is his resilience, evident in his shocking comeback victory over Mitrione’s good friend Pat Barry at UFC on Versus 4.
"I think that Cheick is such a known fighter, such a known commodity with such a sexy style, as far as I’m concerned," Mitrione said. "For me it’s going to be a damn sexy fight. I’m really excited to just get in there and just be tested."
After the Morecraft fight, Mitrione wasn’t so certain he should face a fighter with a track record like Kongo. He "over-trained" at Randy Couture’s gym in preparation for the Morecraft fight, putting in "50 to 60" hours a week and it showed in his performance. Although was victorious, Mitrione wasn’t happy with his showing, causing him to second-guess who he should fight next.
"After that fight I was like, ‘Well maybe I do need to take a couple steps back and make sure that I perform at a really high level before I fight somebody as an upper echelon fighter,’" Mitrione explained. "But now that I have some more distance between myself and that fight, I feel that I’m ready for it. I think it’s a good fight for me to really decipher where I’m at as far as my fighting career goes and what I’m capable of becoming or accomplishing."
A win over Kongo would do wonders for Mitrione’s legitimacy, moving the 32-year-old to 6-0 and one step closer to the cream of the crop of the heavyweight division.
"I’d be really, really surprised if this ended up in a decision," Mitrione said. "Either I’m getting my ass kicked and getting the fight stopped or he’s getting knocked out."
Train with Matt Mitrione at TapouT’s Virtual Training Center where "Meathead" teaches modules in stand-up and grappling. TapouT VTC offers over 400 on demand videos from over 30 different fighters with content updated weekly. "With TapouT VTC you can watch the best MMA fighters and trainers teach the best techniques, which is pretty damn good for your development," Mitrione said. "It’s really beneficial to fighters and especially people that are developing, because you can learn hundreds of techniques in detail. It teaches you ‘this is what I should do in this situation.’ It gives you step-by-step and shows you an in-depth breakdown of it." TapouT VTC provides MMA training, as well as MMA workouts, nutritional tips and exclusive interviews. Learn the following courses from Mitrione at TapouT VTC: Jab, Angles for a Lefty, Proper Angles for Inside Leg Kick, Defense: Takedown Against Cage, Sprawl, Upside Guard Sweep, Upside Down Guard to Ground and Pound, Guard Pass, Inverted Crucifix, and Knees From Side Mount.