Usually a significant PPV like UFC 158: St. Pierre vs. Diaz begins with a fight Dana and Joe Silva know will deliver fireworks. I'm sure plenty of educated fight fans are saying "and this one ain't it", but I think otherwise. Not just because I'm not educated, but because I think both men will look to put on a show knowing full well they're (to be frank) lucky to open a main like this one at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
To be honest I didn't know much about Mike Ricci coming into this preview. As a long time hockey fan, anytime I heard that name being whispered among TUF competitors, my first image was of a long-haired, hippy looking San Jose Shark.
Part of this ignorance comes from being disinterested in the TUF series. For awhile we've been getting less and less contenders (who the UFC is now signing right away), and more and more ham and eggers. To say nothing of the lameduck script for each show: eager contestants eventually experience an existential crisis, which manifests itself in drunken antics. So I just stopped watching.
However, they've been improving, as have the fighters. Ricci isn't a symbol for TUF's sort-of revival, but he's a good approximation. Plenty of fight fans know him best for getting knocked out by the typically-slow-to-start Pat Curran, but with wins over underrated scrappers like Tony Hervey, and Jordan Mein, Ricci shouldn't be underestimated.
His opponent is what you'd expect out of anyone developing a cult status among regulars in the UK circuit: flawed and raw, but exciting. Though to be fair, his wikipedia page is more interesting when you don't click Colin Fletcher (fighter).
Mike Ricci (7-3) vs. Colin Fletcher (8-2)
What can they do: Both are tall, lanky guys (Fletcher at 6'2, Ricci at 6') who use their reach well. Southpaws usually experience an inherent advantage just by virtue of the still unpolished boxing of most MMA fighters. So perhaps Ricci will be another beneficiary. On the feet he doesn't engage when he doesn't have to. He's not a guy that likes to throw wild combinations, opting instead for one shot at a time. He's good in the clinch, and in top control, and I'd imagine it's what he'll look to do against the man they call, and who has tattooed himself "Freakshow".
Fletcher, the British fighter, is known for his striking (despite the high number of submissions on his record). While he's not a power puncher, he does a good job of staying active at range. He mixes in some decent boxing with a very active kicking game, incorporating strikes to the leg, and lots and lots of front kicks.
What they can't do: Unfortunately, Fletcher falls into the "Brits can't wrestle" stereotype. He does himself favors by keeping his distance, but because he's so active, he's easy to time. Ricci, who is nothing if not a perceptive fighter, will recognize this.
Despite the ability to finish, it's important to note that Fletcher is not a finisher from his back, and that's ultimately where this fight will be decided. Ricci becomes far active in top control, and I think will be pumped by the hometown crowd. Fletcher's tough though, so I don't expect a finish, but I do expect a very (the magic word for today) active bout. Both guys will work hard where they need to; Fletcher on the feet, Ricci on the ground.
And Ricci will be able to work on the ground for most of the fight. It's not gonna get the blood boiling like Bermudez/Grice, but it'll be good for what it is; a main card opener that guarantees action.
Prediction: Mike Ricci by Decision.