Mixed martial arts fans can be a rather disparate bunch. Some fans may enjoy the technical aspects of the ground game while others will boo it relentlessly with disapproval. Others may not be so worried about the intricacies of a stand-up, but would rather see two grown men slug it out to the brink of unconsciousness. One thing remains a parallel between the two groups however, great fighters who can entertain while also being successful are desirable.
Finding these unique talents is a tough task, but we hope we've found a great fighter who you'll respect deeply as his suicidal tendencies to counterstrike his way to glory have had us on the edge of our seat for quite some time. At #2 on our 2011 World MMA Lightweight Scouting report, Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Ricardo Tirloni (9-1) chimes in with an exciting style that you won't want to miss.
Offensive Skills: Tirloni's arsenal of weapons includes what you would typically find in a successful Brazilian fighter's repertoire: Muay Thai boxing and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. While we've seen plenty of fighters come and go in the UFC with a similar resumé, Tirloni separates himself from the pack with a highly offensive submission game that is supported by a damaging striking game. He's brutalized numerous opponents with devastating leg kicks and knees in the clinch, and an aggressive striking style. That style normally leads to opponents trying to take him down to avoid strikes, and Tirloni is equally good, if not better, on the ground.
Front choke attempts have been one of the keys for Tirloni in more recent battles, and he's used those threatening submission attempts to stave off takedowns. But when he's found himself on his back, he's proven to be just as dangerous as he is in top control.
I tend to think the ground is a safer place for him to work, but it's hard not to love his striking game. Aggressive and hungry, Tirloni hunts his opponents down and pounces at the first glimpse of danger, and while some would say his boxing is suicidal in nature because he wades into the line of fire -- it's hard to deduct points for attempting to finish a fight.
Defensive Skills: As I previously mentioned, his stand-up defense is a problem. It's mostly due to the fact that Tirloni is too busy having a blast trying to knock his opponent out before he gets caught, but more often than not -- he comes out ahead. When he has found himself in trouble, i.e. the Dan Russom bout, he's dominated the ground with submission attempt after submission attempt, eventually catching opponents. Not a bad defense mechanism to being stunned on the feet.
Progression & Learning Ability: One of the biggest improvements that Tirloni has made is the patience he has exhibited in the stand-up department. Take one look at the dominating performance he was having against Benson Henderson at MFC 17. Up until Tirloni was caught in a guillotine, he was well on his way to a victory, and he nearly crushed Henderson's hopes of progressing to where he is today as WEC Lightweight champion.
I think one of the problems for Tirloni in that fight was that his pace was fairly high to begin the fight, and he tried to pounce on every opportunity he was given. While that sounds great in theory, the hastiness to finish his opponent created some mistakes that put him in bad situations. The Ricardo Tirloni of today, as shown in his recent fight with Sigmar Neco, is much more willing to let opponents come to him. I think a more strategic mindset into how he strikes with opponents will keep his chin a little less peppered as his career progresses, and that's an improvement from his earlier days in the sport.
Environment: He was training with American Top Team in Florida for quite some time, but it appears he's currently training in Brazil with Ataque Duplo, home of current UFC fighter Thiago Tavares. He also trains at various camps in the region, and that should be good experience for him as he'll spar with multiple training partners on a regular basis.
Potential: Tirloni is only 27 years of age, has a lot of diversity in his skill-set, and has the perfect mix of aggressive tactics and intelligence. His time to shine should be approaching quickly, and his style of fighting will certainly attract some big name suitors. Only one decision in ten career fights, and he basically stomped Ben Henderson for two rounds until he got caught in a guillotine choke... in only his third professional bout.
While Tirloni's tendency to sit in the pocket and go shot for shot with opponents is dangerous, I wouldn't have it any other way. The way I see it, you aren't winning unless you're trying, and Tirloni doesn't seem to have any quit in him. Tirloni's biggest test to date will come December 11th at Shooto Brazil 20 as he battles Hacran Dias (20-3). If Tirloni wins, it's almost a certainty we'll be seeing him in the UFC in 2011. And by the way, if you enjoy awesome fighter websites that have extreme close-ups of ugly mugs, Ricardo Tirloni is the king. +100.
Ricardo Tirloni vs. Sigmar Neco - Brazilian Fight League 7 - August 7, 2010
Ricardo Tirloni vs. Dan Russom - AOF 3 - April 13, 2009
Interesting interview in lead-up to Brian Cobb fight, a Brazilian who speaks great English