UFC Fight Night 26 brings the Octagon back to Boston, where Chael Sonnen faces off against Shogun Rua in the main event. Two welterweight contenders square off in the main card, in what should be a violent showdown. Mike Pyle is on a four fight win streak, his most recent outing a split decision win over Rick Story, while Matt Brown has won his last five fights, recently finishing Jordan Mein in an impressive comeback victory.
Mike Pyle (25-8 overall, 8-3 UFC)
Strengths: Well-rounded, nice submission skills, crafty veteran
Weaknesses: Wear and tear, struggles with powerful fighters
Matt Brown (17-11 overall, 10-5 UFC)
Strengths: Extraordinary level of toughness, extreme capacity for abuse, brutal striking/GNP
Weaknesses: More of a brawler than a technical guy, submission defense
Fight Breakdown – This one is not going to lack for action. Pyle is adept at staying active on his feet and picking his shots, throwing in some clinch work and taking guys to the ground to set up submissions. Brown is an absolute grinder wherever the fight goes and he’s got a will of iron.
We’re going to see a lot of Mike Pyle moving around, trying to avoid getting tangled with Brown. Look for Brown to move forward and initiate some exchanges or a clinch. Pyle is a technical fighter and can use his crafty stand-up to stay away from Brown’s vicious punches and elbows, all while landing punches on the fly. The more he can pepper Brown with jabs and punches and avoid getting caught, the better off he will be.
If Brown catches Pyle with some of his patented strikes, it could get ugly in a hurry. Brown is dangerous in the stand up, but can also do a lot of damage in the clinch. Pyle does not want to get caught between Brown and the cage for extended periods of time. That’s probably exactly what Brown will try to do: get aggressive and go after Pyle, and punish him to take some gas out of him. Brown is very good at making guys break somehow and chances are the other guy will break before Brown does. For how tough he is though, he does have a glaring weakness in his fallibility to submissions, which happens to be one of Pyle’s specialties.
Pyle has a very good chance of winning this fight by sub. Brown is obviously a brawler, and he gets into trouble in many of his fights. He usually manages to bounce back and even finish the other guy at times, but there are moments when Brown leaves himself open for a submission. Take a look at his record, nine of his eleven losses have been by submission. That could mean trouble against a guy as good as Pyle.
Pyle might look to strike and evade against Brown, and possibly catch him to put him in a bad spot on the ground. We’re not likely to see Pyle finish Brown in the stand-up, although anything is possible, but if Pyle wins this fight, it’s most likely by decision or submission. The best thing that could happen for him is for Brown to get a little wild and leave himself open to get clipped and put down, scrambling to recover. Pyle is likely to find a way to tap him out if that’s the case.
Key to Victory: Can Pyle weather the storm Brown is sure to dish out? Pyle is the more technical fighter of the two, but that won’t matter a whole lot against a warrior like Brown. Brown is going to eat a lot of jabs and big shots, but he’ll walk through them to grind down Pyle. If Pyle can keep his distance and pick his shots, he can squeeze out a decision victory.
Why It Matters – Mike Pyle is on a four fight winning streak at the ripe old age of 37. That’s an amazing feat in and of itself. Ever since losing to Rory MacDonald, Pyle has been on fire, although his last win against Rick Story was about as close as it gets. A victory over Matt Brown, especially a convincing victory, would raise a lot of eyebrows and increase Pyle’s value even more. He might even compare to Josh Thomson, a fellow late thirties contender in the lightweight division, who has been impressive in his recent fights. A big win here and Pyle would at least deserve someone in that top 10-15 range.
Matt Brown is on a parallel course with Pyle, just steadily moving up that ladder. A victory here and Brown needs a big name, a top contender. Brown bounced back to put down Jordan Mein, a rocketing contender himself. An impressive finish here and you would have to think Brown gets a crack at someone in that top ten area as well. Chances are a lot of guys don’t want to fight Brown, as Brown isn’t a top contender himself and presents a lot of dangerous challenges. He’s a hungry fighter and fighting him would be a risk for anyone.
Now a bad loss here, especially by submission, would bring all of his momentum to a screeching stop. Brown has to show he can fight smart and avoid getting subbed. He’s had way too many losses by submission and if he can’t break that label then we’ve seen his ceiling. Brown has a whole lot of potential and could wreak havoc in the top of the division. There aren’t a lot of guys with his chin, heart and overall durability. But in order to crack that stratosphere, he has to round out his skill set. He’s going to have a golden opportunity to display it against Pyle.
Similarly, a loss for Pyle and it’s basically a certainty that he becomes a mid-level gatekeeper – someone to test out up-and-coming fighters in the welterweight division. No one probably wants that job, so expect Pyle to fight smart and keep away from Brown’s brawl tactics. He’ll be able to for some time, but eventually, Brown is going to catch him and impose his will.
Prediction – Brown