This Saturday (Sept. 21, 2013), hard-hitting Heavyweight fringe contenders Brendan Schaub and Matt Mitrione will square off on the pay-per-view (PPV) main card of UFC 165 from Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
These two The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 10 teammates have both been in the news recently, but it hasn't been in conventional ways.
Schaub was thoroughly blasted for his uninspired performance at Metamoris 2 this June, where he repeatedly refused to engage his opponent Roberto "Cyborg" Abreu on the mat. It was deemed as a disgrace to the highly respected sport of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, so Schaub needs a win to right the wrongs that his venture into submission grappling created.
Not to be outdone, Mitrione was suspended back in April for his "appalling" comments about transgender fighter Fallon Fox. The suspension was short-lived, as Mitrione soon found himself signed on to face "Hybrid" at UFC on FX 8 in July before rescheduling the bout because of injury.
In terms of actual mixed martial arts (MMA), this match up is going to be crucial to gain much-needed footing in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight division. Schaub won his last bout against Lavar Johnson at UFC 157, but he was again criticized for being too safe. "Hybrid" has still lost two out of three, but it's a bit misleading because he's also won five out of seven.
Putting a stamp on Mitrione will be the only way to establish his relevancy.
Mitrione has also lost two out of three, but he won his last fight at UFC on Fuel TV 9 against a one-dimensional grappler in Phil de Fries. Prior to that, he was knocked out by Roy Nelson at TUF 16 Finale in late 2012.
This is a do-or-die bout for both fighters because the loser may just receive his walking papers. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Brendan Schaub vs. Matt Mitrione:
Record: 9-3 overall, 5-3 UFC
Key Wins: Mirko Filipovic (UFC 128), Gabriel Gonzaga (UFC 121)
Key Losses: Roy Nelson (TUF 10 Finale), Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (UFC 134)
Keys to Victory: Schaub is an incredibly talented athlete who played football at University of Colorado, nearly making the National Football League (NFL) as a member of the Buffalo Bills.
From there, he translated seamlessly into MMA and found success on the tenth season of TUF. Schaub made it all the way into the finals before losing to Nelson. On paper, Schaub is a well-rounded fighter who possesses a ton of knockout power coupled with an evolving ground game.
However, he's been much maligned for his recent trend of fighting tentatively. To win against Mitrione in Toronto, he's going to have to throw that gameplan out the window.
It may end up backfiring, but it's also the only way to pull off an impressive victory.
Another lackluster decision just won't do. Because he's been knocked out in each of his three losses, Schaub appears less likely to pull the trigger these days. He'll need to overcome that and be on the attack against Mitrione. It might leave him exposed, but fighting timidly will not earn him any points with the UFC brass.
Mitrione also has legitimate knockout power, but Schaub should hold the edge on the ground. Schaub's brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu will prove invaluable should the fight go to the ground.
Submissions could prove to be the x-factor in this bout, because neither fighter has ever won with a tapout. But it's more likely to turn into an all-out slugfest, so Schaub will need to have his head in the game and be ready to strike from the opening bell.
Record: 6-2 overall, 6-2 UFC
Key Wins: Joey Beltran (UFC 119), Kimbo Slice (UFC 113)
Key Losses: Roy Nelson (TUF 16 Finale), Cheick Kongo (UFC 137)
Keys to Victory: Like Schaub, Mitrione is a great athlete who found success on the gridiron as a member of both the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants. He first crossed paths with Schaub on TUF 10, but didn't fare as well when James McSweeney submitted him.
Mitrione turned it around effectively by winning five in a row in the UFC before losing two out of three. It's no secret that he's going to come in looking to trade shots on the feet.
Mitrione is a black belt in Shotokan Karate, and his fights show a penchant for big power strikes. With power like his, any fight can end in a split second. Schaub has proved he can be knocked out before, and Mitrione is going to push his striking to the limit.
He should, because Schaub could be reeling mentally from all the recent criticism that's been heaped upon him.
There's not much to suggest that Mitrione owns an advantage on the ground, but he does train with Rashad Evans and his Blackzilians team in Florida. That could mean his ground game is shored up, but Schaub should definitely have an edge even though he was disgraced in his submission grappling appearance this summer.
Mitrione isn't Abreu, so he'll look to avoid the takedown and land some bombs. He could surprise and go for a takedown of his own, but odds are he'll go for the big knockout.
After the Fox debacle, Mitrione could be on thin ice. It's never good to lose three out of four in the UFC, so "Meathead" will be motivated to keep his job.
If he can find Schaub's chin before he gets caught, Mitrione should live to fight on.
Bottom Line From Toronto: On the surface, the bottom line of this fight is going to come down to who lands the hardest shot first. Both fighters are sluggers who throw heavy leather and have been knocked out before.
Schaub has shown a passive game lately, but that won't fly at UFC 165. He's going to get knocked out with that gameplan. Instead, he should employ an aggressive strategy that looks to take the fight to the mat for a submission.
Schaub has two ways to win, Mitrione one, but it should still be a war. Both have never won nor lost via submission, but Mitrione did tap on TUF. This is where Schaub needs to exercise his skills. In a slugfest, it's anybody's game, but Mitrione has proven to have the stronger chin.
This fight will be full of emotion and implications for both sides. That means it could be "Fight of the Night" or it could cause the fighters to freeze up a bit because of the pressure. Relevancy is on the line this Saturday, and it will most likely hinge on the strength of one big punch.
Two athletic Heavyweights will go to war with high stakes on the line at UFC 165 in Toronto. Who is your pick to fight on in the Octagon?