This Saturday night (Feb. 22, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweights Mike Pyle and TJ Waldburger will face off on the pay-per-view (PPV) main card of UFC 170 from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Pyle recently saw a ton of momentum dissipate when he was knocked out by Matt Brown back at UFC Fight Night 29. It was only took 29 seconds for "Immortal" to finish Pyle, and the disheartening loss basically erased the four-fight win streak that he had built up.
Despite his vast wealth of mixed martial arts (MMA) experience, Pyle is beginning to be defined as the fighter who wins his way into a big fight, only to lose.
Thankfully for him, Waldburger is not a big-name fight.
A talented grappler, Waldburger has lost two out of his past three fights. He was last seen getting destroyed by Adlan Amagov at UFC 166 and hasn't had a win since late 2012, and he'll have no easy walkover at UFC 170.
With Pyle and Waldburger both coming off losses, their backs are against the wall. They're both miles away from true relevancy, making this a must-win scenario for each competitor. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Pyle vs. Waldburger:
Record: 25-9-1 overall, 8-4 UFC
Key Wins: Rick Story (UFC 160), Josh Neer (UFC on FX: Johnson vs. McCall), Ricardo Almeida (UFC 128)
Key Losses: Matt Brown (UFC Fight Night 26), Rory MacDonald (UFC 133), Jake Ellenberger (UFC 108)
Keys to Victory: Fighting in UFC since 2009, Pyle has racked up two nice win streaks. Unfortunately, he just hasn't been able to capitalize on them. He's been forced to go back to the drawing board for this fight, but the odds are in his favor. With 16 submissions to his name, Pyle has largely preferred to win fights with his grappling prowess.
At UFC 170, the exact opposite strategy should lead Pyle to victory.
Waldburger is a heralded grappler in his own right, but has only one striking stoppage. He's also been knocked out an alarming six times in eight losses, but he's never tapped out.
While Pyle may only have five knockouts of his own, there's never been a better time to go for his sixth.
"Quicksand" should look to keep this fight standing and get in Waldburger's face early to look for the knockout. Waldburger has proven that he can't hang with talented strikers, and Pyle is no slouch.
If Pyle can keep a heavy torrent of punches in Waldburger's face, he'll go a long way in stopping any attempts to get this fight to the ground. Even if this fight does hit the mat, Pyle won't be too far out of his element. He's a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, so while he may not be able to submit Waldburger, he may have a good chance at neutralizing any submission attempts that come his way.
Record: 16-8 overall, 4-3 UFC
Key Wins: Nick Catone (TUF 16 Finale), Pat Healy (Shark Fights 6)
Key Losses: Adlan Amagov (UFC 166), Johny Hendricks (UFC Fight Night 24)
Keys to Victory: Waldburger has the deck stacked against him here. He hasn't fared well lately and a loss to Pyle could see him cut from the promotion. Pyle is undoubtedly one of his tougher tests inside the Octagon, so he needs to show up renewed with a sharp, unwavering focus.
Even that might not be enough.
Waldburger has shown to be rather inept on the feet, with only one technical knockout on his record from a doctor's stoppage. It's becoming evident that Waldburger may be a bit too one dimensional to contend with the current crop of UFC welterweights.
He can erase a lot of those beliefs by proving he can stand and trade with Pyle in Las Vegas, but that's a long shot at best. With so many knockout losses on his record, it would be a big surprise to see Waldburger do anything but try to get this fight to the mat as soon as possible.
He's quite proficient there, and his track record is basically the exact opposite of his horrendous stats on the feet. Waldburger won't be scared of Pyle's significant submission offense, and for good reason. He's never submitted, but he has gained 13 of his 16 wins by way of submission.
That's an alarming rate, so Waldburger should look to transition into a takedown and turn his into a grappling match.
It won't guarantee success, but his chances are slim-to-none standing. Pyle has tapped out four times, proving he can be put away on the ground. That's music to Waldburger's ears because it might be his only way to win.
Bottom Line from Las Vegas: The bottom line for this fight is that we have two opponents who desperately need a win in the tough welterweight division. Waldburger needs one more as he's dropped three out of six and didn't get a UFC win last year.
With his previous win streak, Pyle's job should be safe even if he loses. That should be a reassuring feeling at UFC 170; one that Waldburger definitely won't enjoy.
Pyle is the favorite here, but not by as much of a margin as you'd think. Still, Waldburger is going to have to pull off something special to upset "Quicksand."
Coming in with his usual lackluster striking defense will most likely see him staring up at the lights after his seventh knockout loss. It's tough to maintain any measured degree of success of when your gameplan is so focused on just one aspect of MMA.
Pyle appeared to have all the tools to make a legitimate run at 170 pounds, but he just couldn't get over the hump. A win over Waldburger certainly won't get him there, but it's a step in the right direction.
On paper, this fight looks like a match-up tailor-made for Pyle to regain some of his lost confidence. It's on Waldburger to prove otherwise.
Mike Pyle is looking to right the ship against TJ Waldburger at UFC 170. Will it be anything but an easy victory for "Quicksand"?