Matt Mitrione seems like an entirely different person than the meek outcast he portrayed on The Ultimate Fighter.
Coming in second to last in the team picks, Mitrione was an outsider from the onset, garnering the not so prestigious nickname "Meathead" as an affectionate gesture from coach Rashad Evans. The first sign that strange things were afoot was Mitrione's first fight. He faced Scott Junk, a tough and experienced veteran, and ended up bashing his eyeball loose from its socket.
The former NFL player, who didn't have a single professional fight to his name, had been sulking around, not making friends, and allegedly milking a shoulder injury, thoroughly wowed the cast with a mean set of hands from the southpaw stance. Now, after hooking up with Roufusport, one of the fastest rising teams, Matt Mitrione might be the most promising new heavyweight in the game.
As one of the four former NFL players on the tenth iteration of TUF, Mitrione shines with the qualities we speculated an athlete of that caliber might have: a frightening strength-to-agility ratio, quick adaptation to the basics, untouchable cardio and an unmatchable pace.
Throw in a freakish comfort with boxing, a gruesome straight left, and a natural instinct for fighting, and we've got one talented Meathead.
Christian Morecraft is a massive heavyweight, tipping the scales at just under the 265-pound limit, and 6'6" tall. He's associated with the Cape Cod Fighting Alliance, but also spends time under Ryan Ciotoli and Gary Marino at New York's Team Bombsquad.
Morecraft has allocated a groundbreaking solution to MMA's judging problem by avoiding decisions and the third round altogether, having violated each of his adversaries in the first round before coming aboard the UFC heavyweight division, and concluding things inside of the second in his two fights since.
Morecraft made his debut against Stefan Struve and inflated his lower lip to Goodyear-proportions with an enthusiastic mauling in the opening round, but was pegged by the lanky Dutchman's combination in the next for his first and only career loss.
Sean McCorkle and his scintillating smack talk was next on the docket, but Morecraft handled both threats with cool confidence, playfully instigating with media propaganda of his own and proving his prowess with a second round guillotine.
Physically, Morecraft is a leviathan, and he has quite a varied background in wrestling, striking, and BJJ that offers no glaring weaknesses.
Mat-wise, he showed solid technique to match the raw brutality of his ground-and-pound against McCorkle, angling for leglocks and armbars with a fluidity one wouldn't expect from someone of his size.
Matt Mitrione has soared under the watch of Duke Roufus.
His boxing has flowered into a storm of streaking left hands, and his quickness and dexterity bestow him with lightning-fast reflexes to sprawl and counter-punch.
Considering the inexperience of his opponent, Mitrione's creativity in bombing knees to the midsection of a grounded Kimbo Slice was still impressive. He looks more comfortable with his hands in each outing, and really seems to be hitting his stride and oozing with confidence.
If Meathead reels off another strong showing against Morecraft, he will skyrocket as a prospect. The massive Morecraft will likely seek a ground battle, so Mitrione's ability to absorb the space in the cage and avoid the takedown will be imperative.
I think Mitrione has the cage presence to pelt Morecraft with his supercharged boxing and is too agile and feisty to hold down. Being stamped with Morecraft's elbows is an unfriendly environment for anyone, but the big fella has a lot more work to do to create that scenario than Mitrione does to work his hands.
Look for Meathead to show a renewed grasp of range by bursting in and out of the pocket, bouncing around with a smile of sheer lunacy, leaving only a trail of leather for Morecraft to work with.
My Prediction: Mitrione by TKO
Gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com
UPDATE: I've added Mitrione's loss on TUF 10 to James McSweeney from The Ultimate Fighter website (which has every fight from every episode for free). I vaguely recalled Mitrione held his own on the feet against savvy striker James McSweeney, but didn't look entirely game on the ground, so it was informative to review this video.
Areas of note: Mitrione's reach length (81") is pretty outrageous for his height (6'3"). While attempting the leg lock shows promise for his inexperience, McSweeney, known for his standing prowess, was able to elicit the tap from the guillotine with little resistance.
Morecraft's size and skill is frightening from the top position, so Mitrione's grappling will be tested like never before if Morecraft can force the scenario.