TUF 16 Finale: Can Mike Ricci Become a Lightweight Contender?
From start to finish, Smith controlled the fight with relentless takedowns and suffocating top control.
It was a disappointing ending to a valiant effort from the undersized Ricci, who has already decided to move down and test the waters in the UFC's lightweight division.
Is moving down in weight a smart move for Ricci? Could he become a contender at 155 pounds?
The decision to move down in weight would be beneficial to Ricci, but it's also important to remember that size didn't cost him the fight against Smith.
Ricci's grappling was exposed to some degree.
Smith secured takedown after takedown with little resistance. Ricci became stagnant on bottom and never really looked for any opportunities to scramble free or setup submissions. In the midst of desperation, he was more aggressive with his ground attack late in the third round, where he nearly caught Smith in an armbar.
Unfortunately, it was too little too late for Ricci, who lost a lopsided unanimous decision.
There are plenty of strong grapplers in the lightweight division that have the ability to replicate and follow through with the same game plan implemented by Smith.
Unless Ricci's grappling improves significantly, it's tough to see him ever becoming a contender in arguably the most stacked weight class in MMA.
With that said, it's ludicrous to think he won't improve after this loss. At only 26 years of age, Ricci has plenty of time to reach his full potential and compete with the lightweight sharks somewhere down the line.
It also helps that he surrounds himself with guys like Georges St-Pierre, Rory MacDonald and Firas Zahabi at Tristar Gym.
The future remains bright for Ricci, even if the MMA world doesn't see it yet.
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