Two very powerful and dangerous heavyweights will collide this Saturday night (July 21, 2012) as longtime veteran Cheick Kongo expects to test Shawn Jordan on the UFC 149 main card in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Cheick Kongo has always been a fringe top 10 heavyweight, beating the men he's supposed to beat and losing to the upper echelon of the division. He was on a nice roll before getting finished badly by Mark Hunt in his last bout. Now, he's set to test whether Shawn Jordan can be welcomed to the elite ranks of the UFC heavyweight division.
Shawn Jordan is an extremely athletic and talented young heavyweight, being a former LSU fullback and having fought a very active fight schedule. He finished his Strikeforce career on a high note, submitting Lavar Johnson and he got his UFC career off to a spectacular start with a solid second round knockout in his debut. Now, he's ready to see if he can hang with the big boys.
Will Jordan's eagerness to step in on short notice pay off? Or will Kongo put the talented youngster in his place? What's the key to victory for both men on Saturday night?
Let's find out:Cheick Kongo
Record: 17-7-2 overall, 10-5-1 in the UFC
How he got here: Cheick Kongo entered the UFC very highly trained in the striking arts which included Kendo, Karate, kickboxing and Muay Thai.
Kongo had a big 5-1 stretch in his UFC career from 2007-2009 but eventual UFC champion Cain Velasquez stood in his path. Velasquez was nearly knocked out at the beginning of all three rounds by the Wolfslair fighter but would recover and put the Frenchman on his back to pull out a unanimous decision victory.
Since the loss to Cain, Kongo has gone 3-1-1 in the UFC. For some reason, he was infatuated with Travis Browne's shorts at UFC 120 which resulted in the fight being a draw. His last fight against Pat Barry was one of the most memorable of 2011. After getting rocked and nearly knocked out on 2-3 occasions in a matter of 20 seconds, Kongo pulled off the ultimate Hail Mary by knocking Barry out cold with an uppercut-cross combo of his own once he got to his feet.
He rose up a couple notches and earned a bout against the undefeated Mitrione, where he outwrestled the former NFL lineman and was able to hand "Meathead" his first career loss. With the victory, he scored a very intriguing bout with Mark Hunt, but was put down brutally by the hard-headed "Super Samoan."
After initially planning to face Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, he'll now step in against a young and hungry Shawn Jordan.
How he gets it done: Cheick Kongo has a solid striking background but the key path to victory for the Wolfslair fighter is to be unpredictable in his attack, mix in some takedowns with his striking.
Kongo isn't a great wrestler, but he's shown that it's a part of his overall game that he's put a lot of work into and it has steadily improved. He utilized his wrestling very well in defeating Matt Mitrione in his last fight and with his physique and tremendous overall strength, he might be able to muscle Jordan to the canvas.
If the fight is standing, Kongo will need to avoid the low blows and the pants-grabbing. He's built a bad reputation for all the points that he's been deducted throughout his UFC career so the referee may be giving him a short leash. He'll also have to do a better job of playing defense. He's been hurt badly in some of his recent fights and he can't afford to do that against Jordan.
Record: 13-3 overall, 1-0 in the UFC
How he got here: Shawn Jordan was a former fullback for LSU but he found his calling with mixed martial arts. "The Savage" made his pro debut in January of 2009 and has kept an incredibly active schedule, fighting 16 times now in just three and a half years.
Jordan's competition level was steady as well, although he would suffer some bumps in the road against current M-1 heavyweight champion Kenny Garner and Bellator heavyweight standout Mark Holata.
After moving to Albuquerque to train with Greg Jackson, Jordan turned the corner and submitted Lavar Johnson at Strikeforce Challengers 20. Afterwards, he made his UFC debut against fellow newcomer Oli Thompson and he destroyed the former British strongman to start his UFC career off with a bang.
Now, he's stepping in for Nogueira against one of the UFC's most experienced heavyweights.
How he gets it done: Jordan needs to have no respect at all for Cheick Kongo if he wants to come in and score the upset. He's very strong, having been a former fullback in football and he's got some nice power in his hands.
What I think he needs to be most concerned about against Kongo is not the Frenchman's hands or feet, but his takedowns. If Jordan gets dumped on his back, he could be in some trouble, especially if Kongo can posture up and rain down some punishment.
I expect to see Jordan try to crowd Kongo, get in his face and throw his hooks with big power. He's got the youth and speed advantage on the feet and Kongo is 37 years old and not getting any younger. If he can force Kongo to fight moving backwards, he could lose some of the zip on his strikes and Jordan could definitely clip the gatekeeper.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight has to be Kongo's rapidly deteriorating chin. What once was something he could somewhat rely on has become a serious liability. Kongo was dropped against Mir, came closer to being finished than any fight in UFC history against Pat Barry before pulling off a miracle and then was brutally finished by Mark Hunt.
If Jordan can find a home for his heavy fists, Kongo can definitely get rocked at least, and brutally knocked out again in a worst case scenario. He's still got talent, but he's got to be more careful and lighter on his feet if he's going to avoid the power of his opponent.
Bottom Line: Unless Kongo turns this fight into a boring wrestling match like he did against Matt Mitrione, I expect fireworks. Both Jordan and Kongo love to trade strikes and both are potentially susceptible to the knockout. If all goes as the UFC planned, then I expect a slug-em-out brawl where someone is likely getting finished in the first round.
Who will come out on top at UFC 149? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!