TUF 16 Finale: Can Matt Mitrione Still Become a Threat at Heavyweight?
Matt Mitrione hasn’t fought in over a year. On Saturday night, he steps up to replace an injured Shane Carwin to face his TUF 10 teammate, Roy Nelson, at the TUF 16 finale in Las Vegas.
He’s only had six fights in his professional MMA career and all six have been in the UFC. You could call it a baptism of fire. But, in that time, Mitrione, who appeared so mediocre on the TV show, has acquitted himself exceptionally well.
While most TUF 10 alumni, save Nelson himself, have faded into obscurity, Mitrione has established himself firmly in the UFC’s heavyweight roster.
And for a time it seemed like things were going perfectly for him. Five straight wins brought him within striking distance of being considered a serious threat at heavyweight. However, an average performance against an above average Cheick Kongo completely derailed the Mitrione train and had him retreating up the mountain to regroup and reappraise his career.
There have been some unfortunate consequences of that decision; the most serious of which is that he lost the momentum he’d gained from those five straight wins.
Losing to Kongo made Mitrione realise he still had a lot of work to do before he could be considered a top 10 heavyweight. In that time, away from the demands of the professional MMA circuit, he’s had a chance to work on his weaknesses and build himself as a well-rounded mixed martial artist.
In October, he was offered a fight against Strikeforce heavyweight Daniel Cormier, which he turned down. It was a move which made UFC president Dana White “sick.” However, Mitrione felt at the time that his skills were still not good enough to take on Cormier.
But now, in an effort to appease his paymasters, he has stepped up against Nelson—not a man to be taken lightly.
Saturday night will prove if his time away from the sport was well spent and whether he can re-launch his momentum and prove once again that he’s a force to be reckoned with in MMA.
Mitrione is a serious athlete. He spent years in the NFL as a defensive tackle and fully understands the demands on a professional sportsman. In the two years following his graduation from TUF, he became the most improved athlete to come out of that season. But the truth is, he has a lot of work to do to become a fully capable mixed martial artist.
A win against the seasoned pro Nelson will go a long way in giving us a glimpse of what Mitrione is truly capable of as long as he keeps the momentum going this time.
The two will face each other at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino live on FX.
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