This Sunday night (June 26, 2010), two tough heavyweight prospects will battle for supremacy on the UFC on Versus 4 main card, as The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 10 veteran Matt Mitrione squares off against the heavy-handed Christian Morecraft.
Mitrione has spent his entire professional career with the UFC and has literally evolved as a fighter in front of our eyes. He'll be looking to take the next step against Morecraft in what will be his seventh televised fight with the promotion.
Morecraft got off to a rocky start but bounced back big time in his second UFC fight. None of his career fights have ever gone past the second round and he's looking to keep it that way against the TUF veteran.
Can Mitrione continue to progress? Or will Morecraft literally smack that smile off his face with a huge right hand? Which heavyweight prospect will take the next logical step in their respective careers?
Let's find out:
Record: 4-0 overall, 4-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: none
How he got here: After a less than stellar career spent in the NFL as a lineman, Matt Mitrione tossed his hat (literally) into the cage to give mixed martial arts a try. Despite never having competed professionally, he was accepted as a cast member of The Ultimate Fighter's tenth season where he was portrayed as one of the "bad guys."
Matt has since shed that reputation with his fun-loving personality and the ever-present smile on his face, even while he's locked in combat. Mitrione dominated Marcus Jones in his UFC debut and followed it up with what many casual fans perceived as a "huge" win over Kimbo Slice at UFC 113.
He stole the show at UFC 119 with a "Fight of the Night" winning performance against Joey Beltran and then, after signing up with the now famous Roufusport Gym in Milwaukee, showcased his improved striking with a smashing first round knockout of Tim Hague in his last fight.
Matt's ready to take it to the next level, but first he'll have to put away the very tough Morecraft.
How he gets it done: "Meathead" has put in the time to become a well-rounded fighter. He showcased his power against Jones and Hague and he also displayed a respectable ground game against Kimbo Slice.
Matt has said his wrestling is the most underrated part of his game and it's something he spends the most time working on so the wisest gameplan would be to take Morecraft down and test him on the ground. We really haven't seen much of him there other than the fact that he could keep Stefan Struve on his back with ground and pound.
The ex-NFL lineman would also love to continue to showcase his improved striking. He's got great movement for heavyweight and bounces around very light on his feet. If he can confuse Morecraft with his feet, it could set up a big knockout blow in the stand-up department as well.
Record: 7-1 overall, 1-1 in the UFC
Key Losses: Stefan Struve (UFC 117)
How he got here: After blowing away every opponent on the local circuit with no one even lasting three minutes with him, Morecraft made his UFC debut at UFC 117 against fellow tough prospect Stefan Struve.
Morecraft obliterated Struve in the first round, beating him senseless with ground and pound from top position and not only busting his face wide open but nearly splitting his lip in half. He may have spent a little too much of his energy going for the finish, thought, because he came out in the second frame sluggish and was knocked out cold just 22 seconds in.
Morecraft bounced back against Sean McCorkle in his next fight, escaping "Big Sexy's" ground game in the first round and choking the 6'7" fighter out cold with a standing guillotine late in the second round.
The victory put him back on the map and basically, other than 22 seconds in one round, he's been dominant thus far in his UFC career.
He'll be looking to score some major points against Mitrione come Sunday night.
How he gets it done: Morecraft has decent striking, but he's probably most effective from top position on the ground. He's got some very impressive top control and some brutal ground and pound.
If he can put Mitrione on his back and avoid submissions, he'll be in the perfect position to pummel the TUF veteran with his powerful fists.
Morecraft also possesses some decent submissions of his own. While his last standing guillotine was more due to inexperience on the part of his opponent, he also boasts a few legitimate submissions wins with armbar and rear-naked choke finishes.
Fight "X-Factor:" The "X-Factor" for this bout is who will be able to force his opponent to fight his fight? Will Mitrione be able to stunt Morecraft's stand-up with his movement and power? Or will Morecraft be able to utilize his reach and frustrate "Meathead" with a good jab.
There are many factors at play here.
The ground is also an interesting debate. Which fighter actually is better on the canvas? Morecraft has actual submission victories on his record but Mitrione trains with a bigger and more acknowledged fighting team against some very talented guys day in and day out.
Who will be the better man on Sunday night?
Bottom line: This fight definitely has the potential to be extremely exciting. Both men hit hard and are not afraid to throw down. Mitrione has shown in the past that he can not only fight for three rounds but he can look good doing it. That could play a key part in whether he wins this fight or not. There is a lot at stake in this fight as the winner will definitely be seeing higher caliber competition in the future with more lucrative payouts as well so expect each heavyweight to be at their absolute best.
Who will come out on top at UFC on Versus 4? Let us know in the comments section below!