Two welterweights on the rise will find their place in the pecking order this Saturday night (Feb. 16, 2013) as Matt Riddle takes on Che Mills in the opening bout of the UFC on Fuel TV 7 main card in London, England.
Matt Riddle got himself in trouble trying to take home "Fight of the Night" bonuses every time he stepped into the cage, but he's settled down as of late and has experienced one of the best runs of success in his career despite having one of his victories overturned last July.
Che Mills has quietly gone 2-1 in the UFC, both winning and losing all of his bouts inside the Octagon via TKO, most recently smashing Duane Ludwig at the last Fuel show in the UK and winning when the former kickboxer injured his knee inside the first round.
Will Riddle get his win and earn revenge against the "butter-toothed Brits?" Can Mills earn his first two-fight winning streak inside the Octagon? What's the key to victory for both men?
Record: 7-3 (1 no contest) overall, 7-3 (1 no contest) in the UFC
Key Wins: John Maguire (UFC 154), DaMarques Johnson (UFC on Versus 1), Dan Cramer (UFC 101)
Key Lossses: Lance Benoist (UFC Fight Night 25), Sean Pierson (UFC 124)
How he got here: Matt Riddle was a wrestler in college at East Stroudsburg University and despite having no professional MMA experience and just one amateur fight, he tried out and successfully made it onto season seven of The Ultimate Fighter. To get into the show, Riddle scored an extremely violent knockout over Dan Simmler which UFC president Dana White called at the time "The biggest knockout in Ultimate Fighter history."
Riddle would be defeated by Tim Credeur on the show, but he would win five of his first six UFC bouts as the promotion helped him grow against lower ranked welterweights on the roster.
"Deep Waters" experienced some adversity, losing consecutive bouts to Sean Pierson and Lance Benoist before barely squeaking out a decision against late replacement and undersized Henry Martinez.
He returned to form against Chris Clements, taking home a "Submission of the Night" bonus, but his victory was overturned when his post-fight drug test was positive for marijuana metabolites, resulting in a no contest. The TUF 7 veteran continued his winning ways against John Maguire, dominating the grappler with superior wrestling en route to a unanimous decision.
Now, he's looking to take out his second consecutive opponent out of the UK.
How he gets it done: Riddle has some solid wrestling, an improving submission game and some pretty ferocious ground and pound once he's put himself in the proper position. He'll be looking to exploit Mills' weakness on the ground here from start to finish, shooting in for takedowns, keeping the Brit on his back and either pounding him into submission or working to tap him out with a choke or joint lock.
If Riddle can't get the fight to the canvas, he's at a serious disadvantage on the feet, although he possesses a ton of heart. "Deep Waters" is the type of fighter that gets inspired when they start to bleed and get hit hard.
The longer this fight goes, the better Riddle's odds improve as he doesn't get tired and can push a pretty hectic pace. Look for him to really try to wear Mills down whether it's with takedowns or in the clinch. As Mills starts to slow, Riddle will turn up the intensity and really try to hurt him.
Record: 15-5 (1 no contest) overall, 2-1 in the UFC
Key Wins: Duane Ludwig (UFC on Fuel TV 5), Chris Cope (UFC 138), Marius Zamoskis 2x (Cage Rage 26, Cage Rage Contenders 2)
Key Losses: Rory MacDonald (UFC 145), Jim Wallhead (KUMMA 3)
How he got here: Che Mills got off to a rough start in his mixed martial arts career, losing two of his first three bouts, but then something clicked for British striker and he went on a terrific nine fight unbeaten streak which included two victories over former Dream welterweight champion Marius Zaromskis.
Mills again ran into trouble against Jim Wallhead and Japanese grappler Yuyu Sharai, but got right back on track with four straight wins which included a decision against eventual UFC welterweight Jake Hecht.
The victories earned him a shot on the UFC 138 preliminary card against The Ultimate Fighter season 13 alumni Chris Cope and Mills made the most of it, destroying Cope with a beautiful knee to the face followed by some ground and pound to earn a 40 second finish and a $70,000 bonus for "Knockout of the Night."
He asked for a huge step up in competition and he got it when UFC needed an opponent for Rory MacDonald, but it was far too much, too fast for the Brit. Mills was battered bloody by MacDonald and was eventually stopped in the second round.
Mills bounced back against Duane Ludwig, taking "Bang" down and pounding on him until the veteran was forced to wilt after suffering a knee injury. Now, he'll be looking to improve his status in the UFC by taking out a veteran wrestler in Riddle.
How he gets it done: Mills has some strong kickboxing skills and he absolutely needs to keep this fight standing. He's explosive with punches, kicks and knees. He has to utilize good footwork and try to crack Riddle with his punches from a distance.
While Mills wants to stand and trade, Mills can't just expect it. He needs to be on his guard for the takedown from Riddle at any moment's notice and he can't overextend on any of his strikes unless he has "Deep Waters" in deep trouble with a heavy blow that rocks him.
If Mills finds himself on his back, he has to do whatever it takes to get back to his feet. He can't afford to stay there and take damage because best case scenario, he loses the round, worse case scenario, he gets cut, submitted or TKO'd.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight is Riddle promising to stick to his roots rather than trying to win bonuses and "stand-and-banging" with everyone. While he's developing his skills, he's not a stand-up fighter yet by any stretch of the imagination and if he chooses to instead utilize those wrestling skills of his and really hurt Mills with takedowns, ground and pound and potentially submission attempts, he'll be well on his way to continuing that winning streak. All of Che Mills' five career losses have come when his opponents either took him down and submitted him, took him down and TKO'd him or took him down and won a decision.
This isn't rocket science.
Bottom Line: The excitement level of this bout entirely depends on Matt Riddle. He's the more talented grappler and he gets to control where this fight takes place. If he chooses to take Mills down and can pull it off, he'll have an opportunity to either take some risks and try to posture up and land big shots or he can play it conservative and grind out a decision. It all depends on whether he's willing to really turn up the intensity a notch. Also, if he gets popped on the feet, Riddle is the type of fighter who can occasionally forget the gameplan and just want to scrap with his opponent so there's always a possibility this turns into a brawl. Stay tuned.
Who will come out on top at UFC on FUEL TV 7? Tell us your predictions in the comments below?