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Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC Fight Night 112’s Michael Chiesa resident fighter analyst -- and aspiring professional fighter -- Andrew Richardson breaks down the mixed martial arts (MMA) game of UFC Fight Night 112’s Michael Chiesa, who will look to extend his win streak this Sunday (June 25, 2017) inside Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Submission specialist, Michael Chiesa, will collide with powerful young wrestler, Kevin Lee, this Sunday (June 25, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 112 inside Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Chiesa has been surprising people since he was first introduced on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) as a scrappy submission guy. He was the underdog compared to some of the more well-known cast members, but Chiesa’s will and grappling allowed him to eventually overwhelm each of his opponents.

The level of competition has risen, but the story has remained the same.

Chiesa has won five of his last six bouts, and his last victory — a submission of Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Beneil Dariush — shot him into the Lightweight Top 10. The 29-year-old will look to keep the ball rolling here opposite a tough prospect in his first main event slot.

Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:


When watching the Southpaw kickbox, the first word that comes to mind is awkward. Chiesa is not a seasoned striker — he overextends, kicks from too close, and keeps his head still too often.

Nevertheless, it would be unfair to imply that Chiesa is ineffective on his feet.

On his feet, Chiesa likes to kick quite a bit. He’s a long, lanky athlete, meaning this is a wise choice. As mentioned, he occasionally kicks from too close or doesn’t set the strike up, but he still can do damage with his round kicks. Opposite fellow Southpaws, Chiesa likes to step up into left high/body kicks, which allow him to bring his foot down still in Southpaw while firing off punches.

When boxing, Chiesa’s lack of fear is both a virtue and flaw. He throws simple combinations — often relying on the jab and cross heavily — but does so with power, forcing his opponent to respect those shots. At the same time, Chiesa steps into the one-two combination often, making it fairly easy for his opponent to slip off the center line and land counter punches.

In the clinch, Chiesa is a far more effective striker. As one of the biggest men in the division, Chiesa’s size really comes into play. If he’s able to secure a body lock, he’ll yank his foe around and land knees to the mid-section. Once Chiesa’s opponent begins to fight out of the position or push away, Chiesa will break the clinch with hard elbows or punches.


Continuing with the idea of picking one word to sum up Chiesa’s skill set, physicality would be an easy choice here. While it’s hard to find any detailed information regarding Chiesa’s wrestling background aside from the fact that he competed in high school, he’s undoubtedly one of the division’s most effective takedown artists.

Chiesa’s size comes into play in a big way in grappling exchanges. At 6’1,” he’s taller than the vast majority of Lightweights and has a long reach as well. While some lanky fighters struggle in wrestling exchanges, Chiesa makes use of all the length in the form of leverage.

Chiesa’s go-to takedown comes from the body lock. After clasping his hands, Chiesa looks to use his knee as a blocker while he spins his opponent. His knee blocks his opponent’s leg, forcing them to fall over as Chiesa puts downward pressure into the spin. Additionally, Chiesa will shoot for takedowns. He’ll snatch up a single leg takedown and finish it in similar fashion, quickly rotating his opponent and trying to block their feet. Alternatively, the standard double leg along the fence has made its appearance a few times.

Defensively, Chiesa’s size and clinch knowledge make him a difficult man to put on the mat. Even when his kickboxing leaves him vulnerable to a shot, Chiesa’s hips are strong enough to bump his opponent off and relocate him to the clinch.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Chiesa is officially ranked as a purple belt, but he’s also submitted a pair of talented black belts in his last two fights ... so make of that what you will. Chiesa is skilled in all areas of the mat, tending to dominate once the fight moves to that area.

Much of Chiesa’s game revolves around finishing the fight from back mount. Historically, once he moves into that spot, the fight is over. Chiesa has finished eight of his opponents via rear-naked choke, making back attacks a fitting choice for this week’s technique highlight.

From top position, Chiesa does his best to wind up on the back by constantly looking to pass guard. If he’s trapped in full guard, Chiesa will stand above his foe and drop hard elbows, often forcing them to attempt a high guard or kick at his hips. Once that happens, Chiesa will throw the legs aside and look to advance.

If that doesn’t work, Chiesa does great work from half guard as well. He controls hands well, using those brief moments of control to land more elbows. All in all, Chiesa does a very nice job of integrating ground strikes into his passing and top control.

Chiesa is aggressive from his back as well. He throws up triangle attempts often, and the kimura is another favored technique of the Sik Jitsu practitioner. If the kimura doesn’t work, Chiesa’s strong hip bump sweep from his back just might. In one of his fights on TUF, Chiesa used the hip bump to come-from-behind, landing in mount and finishing his opponent with strikes.


If we’re all being honest, the top of the Lightweight division is such a cluster that Chiesa’s win won’t really push him forward that much. Until Conor McGregor defends or an interim title is created, everyone is kind of in limbo. On the bright side, a win extends Chiesa’s win streak and reaffirms that he’s a top-tier Lightweight who deserves to be in the title picture.


Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, is an amateur fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport's most elite fighters.

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