Two runners-up of recent seasons of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) collided last night (March 16, 2013) as TUF 16 finalist Mike Ricci returned to the lightweight division to take on "The Freakshow" Colin Fletcher in the opening bout of the UFC 158 main card in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Ricci was outmuscled in the finals of his appearance on the reality show, but the drop back down to lightweight did him very good as despite Fletcher's long and lanky frame, he wasn't out of place one bit and actually was able to find some serious success on the feet against the gangly British grappler.
Both men were able to trade strikes on the feet, but Ricci clearly had a power edge, forcing Fletcher to react to everything he threw and he could almost ignore most of Fletcher's stand-up offense as the Brit's strikes seemed more an annoyance than anything.
Ricci really started to find some success with his right hook and his straight right, which began to connect with increasing efficiency throughout the bout, and he listened to his corner's advice, which called for a takedown from the Canadian and he was able to dump the Brit on his back.
Fletcher proved to be active from the canvas and got back to his feet, but the damage had been done from Ricci's punches and elbows, which opened up a good cut on Fletcher's brow.
In the final round, Fletcher came out with a sense of urgency looking to put Ricci on his back, but he couldn't overpower the Tristar prospect, who easily nullified his efforts and then popped him with a few elbows on the break. Ricci put a stamp on the fight by taking Fletcher down and then taking "Freakshow's" back in the final minute, missing with an armbar in the final seconds, but it was more than enough to win the fight on all three judges' scorecards.
For Colin Fletcher, his biggest strength was his ground game but he wasn't able to ever gain superior position on the canvas and his inability to take Ricci down was his undoing. He was able to survive on the feet due to his length and the fact that Ricci wasn't really aggressive there, but his punches had no affect on the hometown fighter and the only attack worth anything were his kicks to the legs and body. The only way Fletcher was going to win this fight was if he got lucky with one of those kicks where Ricci was thinking low and he went to the head, but it just never happened. It didn't help that he was so damn pale that all the damage Ricci did to him was amplified.
For Mike Ricci, he did a good job of mixing up his attack whether it was his straight punches wider shots and while I wasn't initially a fan of taking Fletcher down, he was more than competent enough on the ground to not get swept or submitted while dishing out punishment and advancing position there. The fight really started to sway in his favor after he busted open a cut above Fletcher's right eye and I really liked how aggressive he was in trying to finish the fight in the final minute despite pretty clearly having a decision in the bag. That being said, his stand-up was much more powerful than "Freakshow's" and if he had turned up the aggression there, he might have scored a big knockout in his pay-per-view debut.