UFC 162 is upon is after a hiatus that felt criminally long. With nothing to entertain us now that Game of Thrones is done, sports fans have been left only with the NBA and NHL draft (He's Seth Jones you idiots!)*. But not only is the wait over, but the wait has rewarded us with the presence of Anderson Silva; easily the best MMA fighter of our lifetime. The two facebook fights to open the card won't wet the appetite, but after so long, any MMA feels like good MMA.
After enjoying a four-fight winning streak, Seth finally had it snapped by the reliable, durable Mike Pierce. Baczynski is quietly one of the better welterweights in the division. No, he's not a contender, but if you were a rising prospect, and you're given a journeyman lineup of those you'd least like to fight, Baczynski would be at the top of the list. His incredible size for the division makes him a large obstacle...literally.
As for Melancon, not much is known about the compact brawler from Houston, Texas other than that he's a compact brawler. He's had only a brief run in Strikeforce, going 1-1, but he faced solid opposition in both Isaac Vallie-Flagg and Felipe Portela.
The matchup: There's a good chance that if Joe Rogan is stoned enough, he'll give considerable airtime to the narrative that this bout will look like Herve Villechaize fighting The Kurgan. And he won't be wrong. Baczynski is already a Middleweight in 170lb clothing, while Melancon is a Welterweight in 145lb clothing.
Having said that, Melancon is a fairly solid fighter, reminding me a bit of Kelvin Gastulum. Melancon gets much better leverage on his takedowns than you would expect given his size, but he's got solid power in his hands. In addition, he makes good use of space in spite of his 5'8 frame. With a good lunging left hook, a willingness not to abandon the jab, and an always chambered overhand right, he's gonna give it his all and look victorious even in defeat.
Unfortunately that defeat is guaranteed regardless. I'd rather talk about Melancon's future at the lower weights, because frankly, it's a minor miracle this fight is even sanctioned. Baczynski is not just a tall fighter; he's a tall, big boned fighter, and I can't help but suspect a well timed left hook will be more than enough. They say it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. Not here it ain't. Not unless this smaller dog is covered in barbwired chainmail, and carrying the sword of Excalibur.
Prediction: Seth Baczynski by TKO, round 1.
Mike Pierce (16-5) vs. David Mitchell (12-2) Welterweight
Mike Pierce is slowly turning into Fitch 2.0. No, not as someone liable against the Josh Burkmans of the world at this point in his career, but as an overachiever. Pierce is 8-3 in the UFC, losing only to Fitch, Hendricks, and Koscheck all by split decision; decisions many fans contested at the time, and still do.
And yet here he is, fighting right next to your Jack White Fan Page. Part of this stems from his style; like Fitch, he grinds out decisions, never finding ways to really dominate the opposition. If you're a fan of the craft, this can be exciting. If you're a fan of the craft, this can be boring. However you interpret his style, it's effective. He's the quintessential wrestle-boxer.
For David Mitchell, this is essentially his walking papers bout. Mitchell's a capable fighter, but his submission prowess has yet to translate in the UFC, and no where was this more prevalent than in his bout with Paulo Thiago. Despite giving Thiago every opportunity to win, both men ending up putting on one of the more lackluster scraps in recent memory.
The matchup: I hate to boil any sort of analysis into a pile of cliches, but this has them all. Pierce is the better boxer. Pierce will keep it on the feet. Mitchell will want to take it to the ground. Mitchell will clinch. Mitchell will fight. Mitchell will lose.
And that's it.
One thing to look out for is Pierce's progression. Sometimes subtle improvements can all the difference in the world for a fighter on the cusp of contendership. Pierce won't be knocking on GSP's Nike-owned door anytime soon, but his style will continue to net him victories, and likely against stellar competition if he can develop better separation.
Pierce is actually a pretty solid boxer. There's even a hint of raw power. Fitch and Koscheck were both visibly stunned at times (though I wouldn't argue 'hurt' per se). But his problem is that he doesn't have a finisher's instinct. A lot of times he'll look to land some hot ones, and then find himself inside a clinch he initiated, or a clinch he does little to free himself from. Either way this is a gimme fight for Pierce, and one that will show the world he's got some flash to his style.
Mike Pierce by TKO, round 2.
*I sort of can't blame Tampa and Florida for passing on Drouin and Barkov, but when your team needs defense, you'd be wise to choose a future #1 defenseman.