Tomorrow night in Fort Hood, Texas, the UFC hosts its second Fight for the Troops event to benefit the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. The night’s action includes performances from some of the UFC’s most exciting fighters including the sharp-tongued “The Young Assassin” Melvin Guillard (25-8-2), top lightweight prospect Evan Dunham (10-1), The Ultimate Fighter 8 alum George Roop (11-5), kickboxer “The Machine” Mark Hominick (18-7), American Top Team stand-out “Magrinho” Cole Miller (17-4), “Handsome” Matt Wiman (12-5), fan favorite “Hype or Die” Pat Barry (4-3), and boxer “The Mexicutioner” Joey Beltran (10-3). Also on the main card is a heavy-duty battle between The Ultimate Fighter Season 10 alum “Meathead” Matt Mitrione (3-0) and King of the Cage veteran “The Thrashing Machine” Tim Hague (10-4). Mitrione has won all three fights in his short UFC career starting with a knockout over fellow TUF 10 competitor “Big Baby” Marcus Jones (4-2), then deflating the hot air from “Kimbo Slice” Kevin Ferguson (4-2) then Joey Beltran at UFC 119. Tim Hague has fought four times under the UFC banner going 1-3 with his lone win coming over Pat Barry and his three losses coming by the hands of Joey Beltran, Todd Duffee (5-1) and Chris Tuchscherer (16-3). The bout is an important crossroads for both men, as a loss would likely cost Hague his place in the UFC and a win would send Mitrione into the fringes of the title picture.
At First Glance: When looking at this fight, it seems pretty clear that Matt Mitrione should be a favorite. He has been making great strides in becoming a complete fighter whereas Tim Hague hasn’t exactly set the UFC ablaze during his stint in the organization. “The Thrashing Machine” has done very well outside of the Octagon, but inside the UFC, not so much. In the other promotions Hague has fought for, namely King of the Cage, he earned a total of six wins by KO/TKO, two via submission, and one by decision. His sole loss outside of the UFC came via Split Decision. Much to the contrary, in the UFC, Hague has a first round submission win accompanied by two losses by decision and one by knockout. Some in the MMA community even claim that going from fighting Joey Beltran to Tim Hague is a step down for Matt Mitrione, posing the questions: Is the UFC concerned about Mitrione’s improvement? Does the promotion feel he isn’t ready to take a step up in the quality of competition sent his way? This fight seems slanted towards Mitrione who has superior technique standing. What does Tim Hague have that he can use to his advantage? If he’s smart he’ll try and take the fight to the canvas and control Mitrione, because standing, Hague will find himself in deep trouble. If Hague is able to take “Meathead” down and keep him there, it could be a rough night for Matt.
In Depth: Matt Mitrione trains with Duke Roufus, who is largely to thank for Matt’s kickboxing improving by leaps and bounds. However, the TUF 10 alum’s wrestling game can still be brought into question. “”Meathead” trains with Sanshou kickboxer Pat Barry and WEC Lightweight Champion “Showtime” Anthony Pettis (13-1) among others, all of whom have strong stand-up, respectively, but there is a notable lack of wrestlers in the camp, thus potentially leaving Mitrione’s training in that area lacking and thus increasing his susceptibility to takedowns. A former college football player at Purdue and then NFL player, Mitrione should have good balance and footwork that could provide a solid base for takedown defense however a lack of good ground training can not be replaced with raw ability. Tim Hague isn’t flashy by any stretch of the imagination. Nevertheless, he’s very capable as seen in his first round KO of journeyman “The Diesel” Travis Wiuff (61-14). Hague set up the KO shot with a right to the body followed by the shot to the head that finished Wiuff. In Hague’s victory over TUF 10 alum Zach Jensen (10-6) he ate a lot of shots, including a high kick that had Hague badly hurt, and despite that, he never looked to shoot or take the fight to the mat, eventually landing a single knee that KO’d Jensen. Looking at those fights, there is nothing at all to suggest Hague will take this fight to the ground where he has a chance at the upset.
The Wild Card: The desire for revenge is a powerful emotion. Will Matt Mitrione seek to avenge a loss for Pat Barry, his personal friend and training partner? Barry’s first round submission loss to “The Thrashing Machine” might be in the back of Mitrione’s mind; who wouldn’t want to avenge a loss for a friend? That said, when fighters get emotional, they sometimes take chances and do things they normally wouldn’t do. If Mitrione gets caught up in the moment, his performance could suffer and anytime two guys with a combined weight in excess of 500lbs. exchange shots, the potential for an upset knockout is there. Mitrione will be trying to do something special in this one and it’s going to either be a moment to remember or something he instantly regrets. Typically when Mitrione fights, he himself acts as the bout’s wild card.
The Verdict: With all signs pointing to a stand-up war, just play the odds and go with the man who has the best technical striking. Matt Mitrione has sharper stand-up, trains with better strikers, and has super heavy hands. While Tim Hague is a workmanlike fighter with punching power in his own right, he likely will prove too slow for Mitrione’s hands and will end up on his back. Expect the two fighters to stand toe-to-toe for the duration of the bout and throw until one of them takes a nap and expect that fighter to be Tim Hague. In this match-up, Mitrione’s sharper and more crisp striking will likely make all the difference. Mitrione via KO, Round 2.