Matt Mitrione has literally evolved as a fighter before our eyes.
All five of his professional fights have taken place in the UFC as well as two on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 10. He's come a long way since showcasing a very limited skill-set in his promotional debut.
Some have called for Mitrione to move on to the upper echelon of the heavyweight division but the still-green fighter says, "hold your horses."
The ex-NFL lineman spoke with MMA Die Hards after his big victory over Christian Morecraft on the UFC on Versus 4 main card last night about making the change in fight camps and what he still believes he has to work on.
"Meathead" has worked with Chris Lytle and Duke Roufus' fight camps in the past but he reached out to Xtreme Couture in preparation for his main card bout with Morecraft.
Here's his explanation for the big move:
I just kinda felt like I needed much more grappling in my life. I felt that jiu-jitsu is fun but for me, it's not totally applicable so I wanted to go into more catch wrestling. I sought out coach Neil Melanson and from that I got about 5-6 weeks of direction underneath him and his protege Patrick. Actually, the punch in the second round that I dropped him with, I threw a right hook and a straight left. That right hook is something I've been working on over there and they were constantly telling me, 'throw it, throw that punch.' I hold it tight and don't have a lot of confidence in it and I think a lot of people prepare for straight down the pipe punches and they hold their hands up tight and that opens up the hook. I figured, 'what the hell, might as well try it.'
During the fight, Mitrione really hammered Morecraft with some big punches and kicks but some may wonder about his defensive grappling. He was taken down a few times and appeared to have some trouble on the ground against the 6'6" fighter. While some may point to that as a weakness, Mitrione detailed why he didn't look to quickly get back to his feet once on his back.
I'm really comfortable on the ground. It's not like I don't want to be there. I've spent so much time grappling and doing cagework that I'm comfortable there. I know when to waste my energy and when not to, when to explode and when not to. He's sitting there holding me down getting threatened by the ref to make movements, I'm not gonna fight against that because now he has to start moving and maybe give me some space which will give me an opportunity to get up.
With last night just being his fifth professional fight, Mitrione believes that the then 7-1 Morecraft was the perfect opponent for him given where he is in his career right now and he presented an entirely different challenge.
This was a test of a totally different aspect of my game. [Morecraft] wanted to get me to the ground and he wanted to wrestle. He has a bigger body, more reach and strong. So I knew that was a situation that was going to come about and I wanted to make sure to prepare for it and that was one of the biggest reasons I went out and found coach Melanson because I know that through working with him, he's 6'5, 260 lbs. and he's all muscle so I know through working with him I'll be fine against pretty much anybody.
Now riding a five fight winning streak in the promotion, some believe it's time to Mitrione to step it up and face a bigger name in the division, but he still wouldn't mind being given a little more time to develop.
I'll admit I'm probably pretty far away. There are so many holes in my game and there are a lot of things I've got to develop on and that I feel I can get much better on. I see things I've got to do and get better. I know Mr. White and Mr. Silva don't really have ambitions to throw me to the wolves or say, 'ok, let's see what happens here.' I know they like my development and they want to make me better because I think they believe I can make a run sooner or later.
So what do you think Maniacs?
Is it time for Mitrione to step up against some bigger and better competition? Or should he continue to bide his time and hone his craft?