Poor Cheick Kongo. The monkey on his back since he arrived in the UFC has been his ground game (or lack thereof). And after the wrestling-based drubbing Cain Velasquez gave him today in Germany, he’s going to be hearing a lot more about how his ground game sucks. And yeah, Kongo’s ground game isn’t great. But it’s not as terrible as everyone is making it out to be.
Our first glimpse of Kongo’s shitty matwork came back in 2006 against Carmelo Marrero, who utilized some really basic lay n pray skills to take Kongo down and keep him there for the majority of the fight. It was obvious to anyone with half a brain that Kongo needed help on the ground – or at least help staying off the ground.
Then early last year Kongo faced off with Heath Herring and surprised everyone by turning the fight into wrestlemania. Herring, being the gigantic idiot that he is, kept trying to turn the fight into a striking battle but the giant Frenchman would have none of it. He had a new toy he wanted to try out, and that was that. Kongo ended up losing the fight via split decision, but you had to be impressed at the step up he took with his ground game. Or shocked that he would ditch his striking in favor of his grappling. I was both.
Again: Cheick Congo’s ground game is not great. It will always be his weak spot. But it’s not so terrible that you can group him in with other one dimensional fighters like Houston Alexander or Drew McFedries. There are some guys out there who are just going to make you look foolish. Cain Velasquez is one of these guys – he’s just really, really, really fucking good at wrestling. He wasn’t wearing a singlet in all his Countdown photos because they looked good on him, after all. So before you shit on Cheick’s ground game, keep in mind who he was facing. Although you’re more than welcome to poo all over him for trying to shoot on Velasquez in the second and third round after it was obvious his striking was the only path to victory. That was just … wow.