In the lone welterweight battle being featured on the UFC 119 main card on Saturday night, former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra (11-6, 7-6 UFC) will battle the always exciting Chris Lytle (29-17-5, 8-9 UFC) in a rematch of their The Ultimate Fighter 4 Finale match-up in which Serra edged out Lytle to earn himself a title shot against Georges St. Pierre. As any knowledgeable mixed martial arts fan knows, Serra went on to defeat St. Pierre in one of the most surprising upsets to ever happen in the sport while Lytle went on to lose to Matt Hughes in his next fight.
The tide has definitely turned since those days back in 2006-2007. Lytle has gone on to become one of the most exciting fighters on the UFC roster, earning himself four Fight of the Night bonuses, two Submission of the Night bonuses, and one Knockout of the Night bonus in ten appearances in the Octagon. He's also managed to string together three straight victories with wins over Kevin Burns, Brian Foster, and Matt Brown, potentially setting himself up for some bigger fights down the road that could earn him a surprising, yet deserved chance to break into the upper-echelon of the division.
Serra's career has went slightly downhill since his win over St. Pierre back in 2007. He suffered a bad back injury after the victory, sidelining him long enough that the eventual rematch with St. Pierre didn't take place until almost exactly one year later. St. Pierre crushed Serra in the encounter, a result many felt would happen since most fans felt Serra's first win was lucky. Serra went on to battle Matt Hughes a year later, losing via unanimous decision, but he did bounce back at UFC 109 by knocking out Frank Trigg in only 2:23 of the first round.
Interestingly enough, this is a rematch of the final bout from season 4 of The Ultimate Fighter, and the first encounter was anything but exciting. Most of the fight was uneventful, and Serra worked the clinch consistently throughout the fight -- never truly getting anywhere with it. It was so uneventful, in fact, that the judging was very questionable. Two scores came in for Serra at 30-27 while one judge scored the contest 30-27 Lytle.
We probably won't see that type of battle again in this rematch. Not only has almost four years passed since that battle, but both Lytle and Serra are different fighters. Lytle has become a much more exciting fighter, mostly due to his own idealogy that he wanted to stay away from grinding out decisions and playing it safe. While Serra hasn't taken the same stance, he has become much more willing to use his powerful hands to down opponents rather than hug his way to the clinch and hope for a takedown. That thought process may be the very idea why Joe Silva sees potential in this fight producing fireworks.
In my mind, however, Lytle has all the advantages with the only exception being that Serra has enough power to surprise us once again. The only problem here is that Lytle has never been knocked out, ever. He also happens to have the boxing background and footwork to frustrate Serra on the feet, and his grappling is good enough in combination with his size advantage over Serra to allow him to score points in that area of the fight as well. Serra's gameplan is basically limited to a puncher's chance or the very gameplan that won him The Ultimate Fighter season 4 -- a grinding clinch game that puts Lytle on the defensive for most of the fight.
Unfortunately for Serra, I don't see that happening once again. I think ring rust and the fact that he seems to be slowing with age will play a factor, and Lytle has just been far too effective in his recent performances. I'm taking Chris Lytle via decision.