When we last left our heroes...One of the narratives exhausted, tortured, and flagellated regarding the "new" mixed martial artist following Mitrione's stint on TUF was the story about how we were finally getting real athletes in the sport as opposed to McDojo dictators.
I'm not here to poke holes in that narrative per se. I'm just saying that I don't think any of this means as much as Rogan and Goldberg think it means. Sure, playing soccer gives you bionic leg kicking power, but I'd venture to wildly guess that Mitrione's jiu jitsu hasn't been aided by understanding The New York Giants' nickel formation back in 2002.
Mitrione was able to develop into a respectable fighter because he quickly picked up the sport of MMA. Despite being 1-3 in his last four, he's a quality fighter for the HW division.
His opponent, Shawn Jordan, is 3-2 in the UFC with losses to Cheick Kongo and Gabriel Gonzaga. Jordan's bruising style has led him to win each of his fights by TKO. This is the kind of matchup that exists because the UFC is expecting your typical HW one round and out finish.
There's a fight like this on every card. The question is; will this bout deliver the quick and the dead action Joe Silva presumes it will be?
What both men can do: Mitrione's strength is his ability to string together combinations from his southpaw stance. The Kongo fight may have been a little too early for him, but he acquitted himself well in defeat, showing he wasn't intimidated by Kongo's striking (or pecs). He's got some silky smooth hips (bear with me) and first rate speed for a HW. His reach shouldn't be underestimated either (82" for those counting).
He's just a good well rounded fighter, which means he'll probably always have a job at HW for as long as he wants it. Jordan's game is a lot easier to unpack.
He moves forward like the rock from Indiana Jones and just lobs combinations from his southpaw stance. To be fair, he's not your average bar room brawler. He's a big fan of the uppercut, which still feels heavily underutilized in MMA, and he's got a face melting left hand.
When he wants, he incorporates his experience with the 2007 National Championship team well, burrowing his way and his opponent into the ground. It helps that he knows how and when to set up his takeodowns. He did this especially well against Mike Russow after a tough first round at UFC 161.
What both men can't do: All that forward motion has a price, as Jordan found out at UFC 166 against Gabriel Gonzaga. To be honest it was a little shocking to me: Gonzaga was able to throw his right hand backing up, which is not how I usually envision Gonzaga's ability to land punches. Nonetheless, it highlights Jordan's shortcomings.
Mitrione is still a liability on the feet insofar as he continues to keep his hands low. For talented fighters, this can be used strategically, or because your name is Naseem Hamed (for my money, the most intriguing fighter to actually watch in the ring ever). Mitrione is neither that talented, nor Hamed.
Nonetheless, I think with his reach, he should be able to pick his shots and land from afar. Jordan has never been submitted, and I think he'll look to plant Mitrione on his back, but he's never had to deal with someone threatening him from their back. There's an interesting dynamic at play in this bout, but I'm inclined to pick Mitrione because I believe he's the superior fighter no matter where the fight takes place.
X-Factor: Jordan's punching power obviously. He absolutely blitzed Barry, Russow, and Thompson. I think Mitrione has a much better chin than all of those guys combined, but as always in MMA, anything is possible.
In-Fight Soundtrack: Meathead will be savoring the flavor of murder this weekend. Hopefully not literally.
Prediction: Matt Mitrione by TKO, round 1.