UFC 137 this past weekend had a bout featuring Cheick Kongo and Matt Mitrione. UFC 134 saw Brendan Schaub take on Rodrigo ‘Minotauro’ Nogueira. These matches of highly experienced fighters against up and comers that are still green confused me. What was the goal of these matches, to rehab the veteran, or to move the career of the up and comer along? Because there is no one formula for matchmaking that is a sure thing.
Well it worked for Jon Jones. It worked for Cain Velasquez. Those are two young fighters who are undefeated and champions in their weight classes, and who have beaten very experienced fighters in this, still the early stages of their career.
I was the matchmaker for Velasquez 2nd career fight. He was cornered by ‘Crazy’ Bob Cook, one of AKA’s coaches, and Bob told me ‘He will be UFC Champion one day’. He was dominant in his fight, he was fast and strong and technical. He came with All American wrestling credentials. And he conducted himself well – he was quiet and smart and clearly wanted to learn.
I never had the chance to work with Jon Jones, but I imagine a guy like Greg Jackson has to see some sort of special talent to take him under his wing.
Brendan Schaub and Matt Mitrione are both solid fighters, and both are young and have some intangibles. But has there been anything in their performances that make you say ‘DEFINITE CHAMPION’? I don’t think so. Jones and Velasquez they are not.
In fact when I was trying to get a read on Schaub and Mitrione, my initial thought was ’10 more fights’. If they develop correctly, come 2014, 2015 they are the upper echelon of your heavyweight division.
Yes, Schaub took out Cro Cop. There is a lot of respect and hype surrounding Cro Cop among UFC management and fans, and I don’t get it. He is very entertaining, but he is very one dimensional and we are watching the extra fried and crispy version now, despite the Croatian saying he has never been in better shape. Even at his peak in PRIDE, he was never better than Nogueira and running Schaub in with Minotauro was doing him a disservice.
Mitrione is even greener than Schaub. Kongo is a dangerous veteran, and Mitrione didn’t have the experience to exploit the Frenchman’s weaknesses. Mitrione talked a good game, about aggression and bringing it to Kongo, but he couldn’t pull the trigger. Gee, maybe this match was over his head?
I urge the UFC to matchmake with development of the fighters in mind. A few months back Mitrione and Schaub were on the rise, now both are one loss away from a potential cut from the UFC. Don’t rush, not everyone is Jon Jones or Cain Velasquez.