Matt Hughes Vs. Matt Serra: An in Depth Look

Mitchell Ciccarelli@@mitchciccarelliAnalyst IApril 30, 2009

Nothing gets the adrenaline pumping like a good, old fashion grudge match and on May 23rd that is exactly what we are going to get as two former champions finally square off inside the octagon!

Former UFC welterweight champions Matt Hughes and Matt Serra have been at each other’s throats for several years now and will finally get a chance to settle the score as part of the co-main event for UFC 98.

After spending six weeks coaching against each other on the sixth season of “The Ultimate Fighter” on Spike TV, the two were originally supposed to fight each other for the welterweight title at UFC 79 back in December of 2007. Unfortunately, Serra severely injured his back and the fight was cancelled.

Fast forward two years, and both fighters are coming off dominating losses and are in desperate need of a win.

For Hughes, he was completely outclassed by current welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 79. Only a few months later Hughes also suffered a devastating knock out at the hands of the current No. 1 contender, Thiago Alves at UFC 85.

Matt Hughes was once considered to be the most dominant welterweight fighter in the entire world, but now anytime Hughes in mentioned in a conversation the topic of retirement is always brought up.

Matt Serra also suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of St. Pierre at UFC 83 and is looking to bounce back into title contention with a win over Hughes. Injuries and the birth of his first-born child have kept Serra on the sidelines and he hasn’t fought in over a year.

This is one of the most anticipated grudge matches in UFC history and should go down in the record books as an instant classic.

I am going to go in-depth and analyze the history, the rivalry, keys to victory and the futures of both of these fighters.

Enough chit chat, let’s get this thing started!

The History:

Matt “The Terror” Serra, a long time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, and the first American black belt under Renzo Gracie, began his MMA career in 1999. Serra went undefeated in his first three fights by overwhelming his opponents with his aggressive style of Jiu-Jitsu and finished all three fights in the first round with a submission.

Serra made his UFC debut back in 2001 at UFC 31 against Shonie “Mr. International” Carter in a classic fight. The fight was a three round war with Serra controlling most of the action with his aggressive Jiu-Jitsu base. Unfortunately for Serra, all anyone remembers about that fight was the ending where Shonie knocked Serra out with an incredible spinning back fist that seemingly came out of nowhere.

Since then, Serra has assembled victories over the likes of Yves Edwards, Kelly Dulanty, Jeff Curran, Ivan Menjivar, Chris Lytle, and Georges St. Pierre, as well as losses to the likes of B.J Penn, Din Thomas, Karo Parisyan, and Georges St. Pierre.

Serra was a contestant on the “Ultimate Fighter Season 4: The Comeback” and ended up defeating Chris Lytle in the finals to earn a guaranteed title shot against Georges St. Pierre.

Matt Serra became a huge fan favorite while competing on the reality show. Serra has a great sense of humor but he also doesn’t take crap from anyone and he stands up for what he believes in; the altercation he had with Marc Laimon on the show is a great example of that.

In the title fight with GSP at UFC 69, everyone expected St. Pierre to completely dominate Matt Serra. Nobody gave Serra a chance but he went out there and shocked the world by knocking St. Pierre out in the first round to win the UFC welterweight title.

Some people called Serra’s victory a fluke or a “lucky punch”, but I just think that on that particular night Matt Serra was the better fighter and hungry for the gold.

Obviously, Serra lost the title in a rematch to St. Pierre last year but make no mistake about it, Matt Serra is still one of the best welterweights in the world and hopefully he will be able to prove it to you by fighting on a more consistent basis in 2009-2010.

His arch rival Matt Hughes is arguably the best UFC champion of all time and a future inductee into the UFC Hall of Fame.

Hughes has had one of the greatest careers in MMA history, assembling an overall record of 42-7 with notable wins over the likes of Carlos Newton, Sean Sherk, Frank Trigg (twice), B.J Penn, Royce Gracie, Georges St. Pierre, and several others.

Hughes is known best for his freakishly strong wrestling base and brutal ground-and-pound that he developed with several years of wrestling and growing up on the farm. Hughes has what you call “farm boy strength.”

With that strength, Hughes dominated his opponents and defended his Welterweight title for a record of five consecutive victories in a row (a record recently tied by middleweight champion Anderson Silva).

Whether you love the guy or hate him—you have to respect Matt Hughes’ accomplishments and his natural ability. He has come up short in recent outings against Georges St. Pierre and Thiago Alves but a dominant victory over Serra could put him right back into title contention.

The Rivalry:

So why do these guys hate each other and how long has this rivalry existed between them? Well believe it or not they actually used to be friends…sort of.

After Matt Serra lost a split decision to Din Thomas at UFC 41 in 2003, Hughes approached Serra at a bar and the two seemed to strike up a friendship and agreed to train with each other in the future to help build up each other’s weaknesses.

Matt Serra’s perspective of Hughes had changed years later after watching Hughes coach opposite Rich Franklin on TUF Season two.

Basically the “dry sense of humor” of Matt Hughes rubbed Serra the wrong way and he noticed a big change in his attitude from the first time they met.

When Matt Serra won the welterweight title from Georges St. Pierre, Hughes called the victory a “fluke” and stated that Serra isn’t even a top five welterweight and, of course, that pissed Serra off. They were trading words back and forth in interviews and the rivalry and hatred for one another continued to grow stronger.

Matt Hughes thinks that Serra is a bad ambassador for the sport because of his habit of dropping the occasional “f bomb” every now and then (though oddly enough Hughes has no beef with Dana White).

Hughes says that whenever Serra is shown on TV he will not allow his children to watch because of the language that Serra uses.

Matt Serra on the other hand thinks that Hughes is a stuck up jock with an ego the size of Mars. Serra is not a fan of the “dry humor” and thinks Hughes is a prick and a bully.

Serra respects everything that Hughes has accomplished in his career and respects Hughes’ ability, but he hates the guy with a passion and admitted in an interview that he wants to “decapitate” him inside the octagon.

So who is the ‘good guy’ and who is the ‘bad guy’ going into this grudge match?

It’s up to you to decide because every fan has their own opinion and everyone views things differently. I personally am a huge Matt Serra fan and will be rooting him on 100 percent, but I respect both fighters a lot and expect to see a great fight come May 23rd.

Keys to Victory:

Matt Hughes is a very strong wrestler with underrated submissions and brutal ground-and-pound but his stand up is horrible.

Matt Serra is an extremely talented BJJ black belt, has a very durable chin and very heavy hands. His weakness is in his wrestling ability and where Hughes strength lies.

For Serra to win this fight, in my opinion, he is going to have to work an effective sprawl-and-brawl game plan. Avoid the takedowns and keep the fight on the feet, while showcasing his improved striking ability and look to knock Matt Hughes out.

Serra is very dangerous off his back and has a very good guard, but Hughes is someone you definitely don’t want on top of you because his ground-and-pound is brutal, and he is extremely overwhelming when in the top position.

For Matt Hughes to win this fight he is going to have to take Serra down and control him on the ground with his superior wrestling ability. Serra might be a BJJ black belt, but usually a high level wrestler will cancel out a high level Jiu-Jitsu practitioner in an MMA fight on the ground.

The Future:

Win or lose, I don’t picture Matt Hughes sticking around much longer. He really doesn’t have anything left to prove. Hughes will always be remembered as a true legend of the sport and one of the greatest champions of all time.

While Hughes has hinted at moving up to middleweight after the Serra fight, I really don’t think that is the smartest idea. If he does decide to continue fighting after UFC 98, then I think he should finish out his career at welterweight.

I know I’m probably going to sound biased towards Serra, but I truly believe that he still has what it takes to compete at that high level. Not only that but I also think that Serra still has a lot left to prove because a lot of people still think Serra “got lucky” against GSP the first time.

I’d like to see Serra get the win over Hughes and then go on to fight on a more consistent basis against the likes of Joh Koshceck, Carlos Condit, Martin Kampmann, etc.

Am I saying that Serra will win back his title in the near future? I’d love to say yes but that would just be idiotic to say at this point. Let’s see how he performs against Hughes first and then see how he does against the other studs in the 170 lb. division before even talking about Serra and the welterweight title again.


Mitch Ciccarelli is a staff writer for This article was also posted there. For all your MMA news and video, click here


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