PITTSBURGH -- There are good performances that end up ugly, and then ugly performances that come up epic.
That’s what happened with Frenchman Cheick Kongo, who teetered on the verge of becoming a TKO victim early only to pocket $50,000 for landing a perfectly timed right cross that folded Pat Barry like a lawn chair.
He was this close to falling considerably in the UFC’s heavyweight division. Instead, he pulled a Scott Smith by sounding the timely KO knell, and today people are discussing him for "Knockout of the year honors" after a genuinely crazy turn of events.
“I had no idea about the image I make for people,” Kongo told ESPN.com after the improbable comeback knockout. “If I was really out or not. But the thing was I came back, I just survived, and that’s a good thing.”
It is a good thing. Before he cracked Barry with that shot, Kongo was getting thrashed for much of the round. On two separate occasions referee Dan Miragliotta came close to waving off the swarming Barry, who was out to show he learned his lesson about killer instincts after falling to Mirko Filipovic at UFC 115.
So Barry pounced and tried to finish. Incautious? Maybe, but for Barry it’s become a damned if you do, damned if you don’t proposition.
“As far as I can remember, the second time [I dropped him], when he folded back over his legs I can almost recall Dan Miragliotta’s leg touching my arm he was so close,” Barry said in the postfight presser. “So for a split second I thought that this was it.
“I’ve seen fights get stopped before, and this looked like a fight that would get stopped. The second one, in my head I thought it was going to get stopped but that didn’t cause me to stop hitting him. From all the preparation, all the training and all the fights I’ve been in before you keep hitting until the referee steps in.”
What was already a gem in the rough type of card with all the turmoil surrounding the last minute main event change and the Marquardt Mystery, the heavyweight fight that many people were dismissing as anything worthwhile ended up punctuating a wild, unpredictable night. First Charlie Brenneman derailed Rick Story’s title hopes (at least in the short term) as a 5-1 underdog, and then Kongo throws up a Hail Mary that gets answered.
As it turns out, the main event boiled down to a split second decision by Miragliotta, who rushed in to stop the fight and hesitated just as his arms were about to signal the helicopter. And Kongo was appreciative of the fact, because he says he was never in deep trouble.
“No no, when he hit me, it was like out for one second, but I recovered fast,” he said. “Barry’s good. Not to be disrespectful, he hit really well. But I was very confident. I took some shots, I said ‘OK, that’s what he’s got. I will attempt to kick him and punch him,’ and he had the good reflex to block it. I said ‘OK, alright, so he just showed me the pressure, so right now it’s going to be exciting.’ I was surprised he tried to do the same thing that Frank Mir did to me when I fought him in Memphis. I said, okay, good.”
So in the end, there were a lot of old memories crowding over the “exciting” crescendo moment of the fight. Barry wanted to finish to avoid what happened against Cro-Cop (where he was submitted after early domination), and Kongo was astonished at the parallels between this fight and the Mir fight. It all came together for a split second when Barry moved in and Kongo planted and delivered a shot right on the button.
Epic? For those few seconds it was. And it’ll stand as one of the crazier knockouts of 2011.