UFC 165 in Toronto, Canada is headlined by Light-Heavyweight champion Jon Jones looking to earn his sixth consecutive title defense against challenger Alexander Gustafsson. Two heavyweights looking to build on recent wins will also meet on the main card. Matt Mitrione, fresh off of a KO finish of Philip De Fries, meets Brendan Schaub, who won a one-sided decision against Lavar Johnson early this year.
Matt “Meathead” Mitrione (6-2 overall, 6-2 UFC)
Strengths: KO power in his hands, strength
Weaknesses: Still relatively inexperienced, can’t take that next step
Brendan “The Hybrid” Schaub (9-3 overall, 5-3 UFC)
Strengths: Good at a lot of things, not great at anything
Weaknesses: Susceptible to the big KO punch
Fight Breakdown –
You got two guys here, both capable of putting the other guy in trouble in a hurry, but both also susceptible to getting caught themselves. Of the two, Mitrione is probably the more dangerous striker in terms of sheer, one punch KO power. Take a look at his record and you can see he has a history of finishing guys with punches in the stand up. His one KO loss was to Roy Nelson, a guy who can take a punch with the best of them. But he also lost to Cheick Kongo, a tall, long fighter who used his size to good advantage and grappled Mitrione all night.
Meathead is probably going to be the aggressor here, and while both guys will respect each other’s power and feel each other out, Meathead is the guy who will make the forward moves and try to connect with Schaub earlier in the fight. Expect to see some grappling, especially if initiated by Schaub, but Mitrione won’t want a big serving of that, so look for him to try and escape as soon as possible to get back to his forte: his heavy hands.
Schaub will try to take a page out of Kongo’s playbook. He will want to neutralize Mitrione’s greatest strength, which is his dangerous punching power. Schaub is the more versatile of the two, and he probably has better cardio and won’t gas before Mitrione does. Expect to see a lot of movement early in the fight. Schaub really has a few options here to win, and he can turn to one of them if the others aren’t working.
First, he can test the waters with Mitrione in the stand up. If he does, he has to avoid getting caught with any big shots. Not even one. One is all it will take to get Schaub in trouble and Mitrione will go for the kill. If he can catch Mitrione coming in with good counterpunching, all to the better. Front leg kicks would be another technique he should probably utilize to a great extent.
If he eats a couple of shots standing up, Schaub should try to grapple and clinch with Meathead and just wear him down. Keeping him locked up against the cage, throwing blows into his body and having him focused on just trying to stay on his feet and escape would be better than having him focused on throwing big bombs.
And finally, if he has to, Schaub has to try for the takedown and put Mitrione on his back. Meathead can’t, in all likelihood, throw KO punches off of his back, so it’s another option for Schaub, if he can manage it.
Key to Victory: Can Schaub use his size and length to keep Mitrione at bay?
If Mitrione makes this thing a brawl and gets in close on Schaub, we’re most likely going to see Schaub hit the canvas – and not by his own accord. Schaub has to extend this fight and make Mitrione swing and miss to take the oomph out of his shots. The longer this fight goes on, the greater the chance Schaub has of winning. If we see an early ending, it’s most likely going to be in favor of Mitrione.
Why It Matters – Mitrione was on fire after winning TUF 10. The guy tore through the competition on his way up the rankings, winning four of five fights by KO. Then he ran into Cheick Kongo, who dominated him in a one sided loss, and then fell to Roy Nelson by TKO. He bounced back in April this year and got back to his old ways with a first round KO, but De Fries isn’t exactly top shelf in terms of the heavyweight division. Mitrione needs a quality win and beating Schaub would be a great addition to his resume and a call to get someone higher up. The guy is 35, so the window of opportunity for him to do something special is tightening with every fight he takes. He can’t afford to lose this one.
Brendan Schaub was looking like the next big thing in the UFC heavyweight division. After falling to Roy Nelson at the TUF 10 Finale, he went on to win his next four fights, the last two against Gabriel Gonzaga and (a fading) Mirko Cro Cop. He looked like he was ready for another step up in competition, so they gave him Big Nog, who promptly finished him by KO in the first round. Ben Rothwell did the same to him in his next fight. Schaub is one of those guys who has a ton of potential and has the size and physique to really make some moves. But he hasn’t shown he is capable of hanging with the big boys, not quite yet. A win over Mitrione will get him someone higher up the ladder, possibly a crack at someone with the name value of a Big Nog or Rothwell. This is a fight he should win. A loss here would be a setback in his pursuit of getting matched up against top tier guys. Schaub will have a slight advantage here, but he has to fight smart and not fall prey to Mitrione’s early aggression.
Prediction – Schaub
Tags: Brendan Schaub, Matt Mitrione, Mixed Martial Arts, ufc 168