Photo by Esther Lin for MMA Fighting.
Matt Riddle started slow but finished fast, picking up a come-from-behind split decision victory over Henry Martinez on the first FX-aired fight of the UFC 143 preliminary card. Riddle had no answer for Martinez early, but managed to turn it around at the end of the second and dominated the third. It was a solid performance from both men and despite the loss, Martinez definitely looks to have a future in the UFC in his natural weight class, lightweight.
Martinez opened the fight with some solid shots, which seemed to surprise Riddle a little. Riddle tried to respond, but Martinez showed off some solid counterstriking. Riddle attempted to land some kicks, but he continued to have trouble with Henry's fast hands. Martinez opened up a small cut over Riddle's eye. Riddle looked for a huge knee to close out the round, but just missed.
The fighters traded a little at the start of the second, and Riddle missed with a telegraphed takedown attempt. Once again, Riddle couldn't come up with an answer for Henry's counterstriking for the first couple of minutes, and Martinez landed a huge counter shot to the jaw. Riddle landed a solid kick to the body, and a jab, but Martinez responded with another good shot. Riddle finally loosened up a bit in the last ninety seconds of the round, throwing a bunch of kicks and landing his jab more frequently. Riddle landed a bunch of big shots to close out the round, and was very fired up.
Riddle opened the third with a body kick and switch kick, and looked to finally have found his groove. Martinez was finding it a lot harder to counter with the kicks thrown in, and it opened up Riddle's game a lot. Martinez still managed to land some punches though. Riddle caught a kick and took the fight to the ground, where he managed to take Henry's back. Martinez got back to his feet facing the cage, and Riddle landed a big head kick from the side. Riddle got another takedown and opened up with some big strikes, but Martinez took them well. The fight ended with Riddle reigning down blows.
Riddle entered the bout on a two-fight losing streak. He was expected to compete against Luis Ramos at UFC 141, but got sick at the last minute and the bout was scrapped. Martinez, a Greg Jackson-trained fighter, was a late replacement for Jorge Lopez. He last fought just two weeks ago, winning with a reverse triangle choke.