Is Matt Mitrione ready for a step up in competition? | Photo: Dave Mandel
Now 5-0, Matt Mitrione’s transformation from “Meathead” on Season 10 of “The Ultimate Fighter” to a talented guy knocking on the door of title contention is a considerable achievement. In his second-round stoppage of Christian Morecraft at UFC Live 4 on Sunday at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Mitrione showed his nice mix of fluid hands and calm demeanor, even when was planted on his back.
What makes Mitrione compelling is that he does not panic in bad spots. If you look at his face, it’s as though he’s a chess player solving a problem, not a guy in a fight.
While he’ll have to continue to work on his takedown defense and probably improve his defensive guard given the better wrestlers he’ll face in the future, Mitrione’s striking is equal parts sharp and intelligent. He also is very relaxed, and his punches pop off with nary a hint or a bit of wasted motion. He’s particularly effective with the low inside leg kick -- an underutilized weapon -- and is further evidence of the athlete-takeover trend in MMA. A former defensive lineman in the NFL, Mitrione’s definitely got the “high calf” attribute that separates athletes from the rest of us.
A fight with fellow UFC Live 4 knockout winner Cheick Kongo would be a natural, and I’d be surprised if the UFC doesn’t make that one next. Mitrione’s eventual ceiling will be defined by how well he deals with elite wrestlers, but for now, he and Kongo make for a perfect bout.
Jason Probst can be reached at [email protected] or twitter.com/jasonprobst.