Photos via MMA Fighting
MMAmania.com has all the information you need to know about Saturday night's Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale bout between welterweights Mike Pyle and James Head. Where can each man win the bout? Find out inside.
Record: 23-8-1 overall, 5-3 in the UFC
How he got here: Mike Pyle has been a longtime veteran of the sport, making his MMA debut against a ridiculous combination of both Quinton Jackson and Jon Fitch back in 1999 and 2002, actually beating Fitch via submission.
He came into his own during a stint with the Viking Fight promotion in Denmark, which would eventually earn him a WEC title shot. He would capture the belt and defend it against Shonie Carter. He would compete in a wide assortment of promotions, from Strikeforce to EliteXC to the IFL to Sengoku to Affliction before finally making his UFC debut in 2009, where he would lose a decision to Brock Larson.
After trading victories and defeats in his next two bouts, Pyle went on a nice tear in the welterweight division, handing John Hathaway his sole career loss, retiring Ricardo Almeida and choking out Jessie Lennox, which earned him a shot against top prospect Rory MacDonald.
Pyle would be overwhelmed by MacDonald, but bounced back by viciously knocking out Ricardo Funch at UFC 142 in Brazil and he had an even more impressive knockout in his last bout against Josh Neer. He'll be looking to make it three in a row against Head.
How he gets it done: Pyle is a serious veteran and is capable both standing and on the ground, but the ground is his home. He has the striking proficiency to hang with Head, but it's much safer for him to try to work his excellent wrestling and jiu-jitsu against the Oklahoma native instead of risking himself in a toss-up battle on the feet.
Head trains under Rafael Lovato, one of America's best jiu-jitsu practitioners so he knows what he's doing on the canvas as well, but Pyle clearly has an experience edge. Pyle should try to treat this fight like the John Hathaway bout and neutralize a solid young fighter with his wrestling..
As long as he can keep Head on his back, he's got an extremely good chance of winning. It won't be easy as Head is a former middleweight who made the cut down, but it's certainly possible..
Record: 9-2 overall, 2-1 in the UFC
Key Losses: Nick Ring (UFC 131)
How he got here: James Head started his mixed martial arts career in 2006 and realized he needed to add to his game. In 2008, he teamed up with top American Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Rafael Lovato and quickly advanced to purple belt status.
He competed on the local Oklahoma City circuit as an undersized middleweight and scored the defining victory of his young career when he earned a decision against recently cast out UFC 185-pounder Gerald Harris.
Head's victory over "The Hurricane" earned him a UFC invite and he made his debut against Nick Ring. After a very strong start in which he nearly finished the TUF 11 alumni, Head faded badly and was finished in the second round via rear naked choke.
The loss motivated a drop down to welterweight and Head debuted at 170 pounds this past February, dominating local favorite Papy Abedi both striking and on the ground, scoring a rear naked choke victory. Head followed up the win by stuffing Brian Ebersole's takedowns to hand the veteran his first loss in the Octagon.
Now, he'll be looking to put another veteran welterweight on his hit list.
How he gets it done: Head is going to have to use all his physical tools to win this fight. He's got youth on his side and he will likely be a bit bigger than Pyle. This should (hopefully) help him keep the fight on the feet where he wants it.
The key for Head will be to force Pyle to stand, but not to get too overconfident if he's successful in that department. Pyle is no slouch on the feet and is coming off two vicious knockouts of his own. Expect to see Head mix it up with punches, kicks and knees, as long as he doesn't leave an opening for Pyle to put him on his back.
Something Head could try which would catch Pyle off guard would be if he actually initiates a takedown attempt. It'll either work and put Pyle on his back or at least keep him honest.
Pressure is key on the feet as Pyle has wilted when bigger, more powerful opponents like Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger went after him with heavy strikes. If Head can go after Pyle in a similar fashion, he could replicate their success.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight is expectations. Head was a heavy underdog in both his last two wins and he had nothing to lose by being aggressive. Fans and analysts alike were caught off guard by his improvement after the Octagon jitters were gone. Entering this fight, he's not going to be surprising Mike Pyle with anything as that last victory over Brian Ebersole really put him on the map in the welterweight division. It will be interesting to see if he can bring anything new to the table.
Bottom Line: If both of these guys fight like they've been fighting in each of their last two bouts, then this fight has potential to be incredibly entertaining. Both really went after their opponents on the feet and showcased some serious power. Both men are well-rounded and capable of winning the fight in the stand-up or on the ground. The only way this fight isn't entertaining is if Pyle tries to completely neutralize Head's aggression via top control with his wrestling and that is easier said than done.
Who will come out on top at the TUF 16 Finale? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!
Which welterweight will come out on top at The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale?
James Head (36 votes)
Mike Pyle (38 votes)
74 total votes