Let’s be clear, Christian Morecraft isn’t a top tier heavyweight and isn’t close to being one. Matt Mitrione pretty much had his way with Morecraft en route to a highlight reel three punch second round knockout. That was only Mitrione’s fifth MMA fight, but it’s clear that he has improved a great deal since appearing on season ten of The Ultimate Fighter.
In a pool of shallow heavyweights, can Matt Mitrione be a legitimate contender in the division?
It’s easy to point out that Mitrione only has 5 fights, and that those 5 fights have come against low level competition. However, if we were to simply look at skillset there is no reason why Mitrione can’t be a legitimate contender within the UFC heavyweight division. Mitrione is a good sized heavyweight with athleticism and power in his hands. That description sounds like Shane Carwin to me. A guy that feasted on low level heavyweights until his eleventh professional fight. A guy that became the UFC Interim heavyweight champ and a guy that just fought for the opportunity to fight for the UFC heavyweight belt for the second time.
It’s true that Mitrione doesn’t have the wrestling background that Carwin has, but Carwin never really used his wrestling while fighting in the UFC. He simply relied on his knockout power.
The thing that I like about Mitrione is his striking is much more fluid and he has the ability to put combinations together with his hands, and he throws the inside leg kick with power. He’s not afraid to stay in the pocket during exchanges, and most of his punches are straight to the point unlike a lot of guys that throw punches with power.
Make no mistake about it, Mitrione has some holes in his game with his takedown defense and cardio needing work. However, if the UFC builds him up nicely he could certainly be a contender in the division. Please don’t take advice from Stephan Bonnar and put Mitrione in there with someone like Frank Mir. That makes zero sense. I think a fight with Cheick Kongo would be perfect for Mitrione at the moment. Stylistically it’s a good matchup because Kongo is someone with good striking, decent wrestling, and he’s just a big heavyweight in general. He’s also a heavyweight with credibility, being the only heavyweight to take current champion Cain Velasquez to a decision after hurting him on multiple occasions with strikes.
A win over Kongo would certainly put Mitrione on the right path towards being a legitimate contender in the UFC heavyweight division.