Brent Brookhouse over at Bloody Elbow attempts to make the case for the French striker.
Let me start by conceding that there is a lot of sound reasoning behind the idea that three wins over Evensen, Al Turk and Hardonk doesn’t scream “contender.” My counter to this is simple: Kongo as a title contender is ready right now. Shane Carwin and Cain Velasquez are better fighters on paper and probably have a better chance of winning a title fight against whoever comes out of UFC 100 as champion. But I’ve always been someone who places a lot of emphasis on marketability and I also believe that development of future stars is of high importance.
…Cheick Kongo has fought in the UFC nine times winning seven and losing by split decision twice. He carries name recognition as well as one of the most impressive “looks” in the sport.
…I believe in resourceful use of commodities and Kongo is the perfect guy for the champion to “stay busy” against while allowing Carwin and Velasquez to become real stars and make sure their title shots draw big money.
Cheick Kongo is one dangerous dude; that fact can’t be ignored. But the UFC needs to stop placing fighters in title fights who aren’t ready from a business standpoint or from a sporting standpoint. Kongo doesn’t hold the type of name value that would increase pay-per-view buys, nor does he hold the type of victory from a sporting standpoint that would propel him to top contender status; his uninspiring win over Cro Cop came after the Pride standout was destroyed by Gabe Gonzaga. While Kongo does indeed hold an impressive 7-2 record in the UFC, he would likely fall into the Leites-Cote-Stevenson level of UFC title challengers.
What I am advocating instead is a Shane Carwin vs. Kongo fight for the number one contender spot. Lesnar and Mir aren’t even set to battle until July so there is no reason to decide who gets the next shot just yet. There is still room on either August card to book a fight between the two massive heavyweights, with the winner fighting for the strap in November or December.
But, if one had to pick between the two, Carwin should get the nod. Carwin’s KO of a very game Gonzaga is a bigger victory than anything Kongo has done. While Kongo has more Octagon experience, he also has multiple setbacks. Carwin, on the other hand, still sports a perfect record in the sport and has stopped all of his opponents in the first round — a fact which also makes him more marketable than Kongo, who has dropped main card UFC fights to Heath Herring and Carmelo Marrero.