Matt Mitrione: UFC Heavyweight Dark Horse in the Making

Brandon HinchmanCorrespondent ISeptember 21, 2010

MONTREAL- MAY 8: Matt Mitrione (L) knees Kimbo Slice in their heavyweight bout at UFC 113 at Bell Centre on May 8, 2010 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

UFC 119 will hold a number of interesting matchups.

Frank Mir vs. Cro Cop and Lil' Nog vs. Ryan Bader are the two biggest fights of the night, but on the preliminary card there will be a heavyweight match between Matt "Meathead" Mitrione and Joey Beltran you should plan to watch.

Holding a record of 12-3, Beltran has considerably more experience than Mitrione.

At 2-0, Mitrione is undefeated in his professional mixed martial arts career, but it's the manner in which he disposed of much of The Ultimate Fighter 10 cast and two opponents in the Octagon that showed viewers he can fight.

Many people seem to discount Mitrione's ability to fight based on his integrity. He doesn't have a good offensive ground game, and his takedown defense is poor.

However, he cannot be counted out based on these elements alone.

Where Mitrione lacks in offense, his defense is remarkable in many ways and allows him to get out of compromising situations that typically drain his opponents as they fail in aggressive attempts to seal the deal against him.

Just because someone doesn't wrestle offensively doesn't mean they can't wrestle.

Mitrione was submitted by James McSweeney in one a TUF 10 quarterfinal match, so we know that he can be submitted, but it's certainly not easy getting him to that point. And being that Mitrione works on his strengths-power and strikes-and he's augmented that with ample cardiovascular conditioning like he did in training for his bout with Kimbo Slice, he's become a tough fighter.

Marcus Jones was something of a submission specialist on TUF 10, and he lost by KO to Mitrione in the Octagon. After repeatedly being taken down, Mitrione brought the fight back to the standing position and took advantage of Jones' fatigue.

Despite not having much grappling offense or takedown defense, Mitrione's submission defense is surprisingly exceptional.

This combined with powerful striking and the ability to maintain offensive output in a multiple round fight means that Beltran will likely have trouble with Mitrione.

Beltran is primarily a striker, and being that he's not to experienced on the ground, this fight will likely be a standup battle.

Chances of seeing a knockout are high, though being that Mitrione has very hard punches and has a good chin, Beltran may have to rely on his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu blue belt to take the fight to the ground.

What should be considered is that Mitrione has been working a lot on his wrestling since his recent fight against Kimbo.

When Kimbo realized that Mitrione's chin was solid and that he was losing the exchanges, he decided to take Mitrione to the ground in a very nice hip throw that ultimately didn't help him at all as Mitrione reversed the position and ended the fight by TKO.

We know that Mitrione can give a beating, but where would a win over Beltran put him in the heavyweight division?

Mitrione is 2-0 in the UFC, and both wins have been finishes. A win over Beltran would look to turn a few more heads than usual as any prowess surrounding Kimbo was under severe scrutiny after his poor performance against Roy "Big Country" Nelson and Seth Petruzelli.

Marcus Jones was a serious contender in TUF 10, but he had also shown weakness after being knocked out by Brendan Schaub in his quarterfinal match.

Still, without a doubt, Mitrione needs to continue building his resume with the UFC, though being in the UFC, he has a good opportunity to accumulate high quality matches that can catapult his status similar to Carwin, Big Country and Lesnar.

Beltran will be a good test for Mitrione's growing skill. However, it will likely not put him in a compromising ground situation where the cream of the crop heavyweights would most definitely take him.

Whether or not Mitrione could handle himself against a grappler like Big Country or a wrestler like Lesnar is completely up in the air at this point.

Perhaps a win against an established wrestler like Mike Russow, who showed weakness against Todd Duffee's striking, would officially put Mitrione on the map as being a threat to the title. Another good test would be Gabriel Gonzaga.

Depending on how he fares against Brendan Schaub, Gonzaga is credentialed enough to make Meathead a popular name.

One thing is for sure, though: if he continues to do well in the UFC, Mitrione certainly has the capability to be the dark horse that can shake the heavyweight ranks up a bit.