The UFC returns after a brief hiatus for another trip to the northeastern state of Pennsylvania for UFC 133: Evans vs. Ortiz this Saturday. The marquis bout of the evening features a rematch between “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz (16-8-1) and “Sugar” Rashad Evans (15-1-1), and the supporting cast includes a wealth of talent from the limbo between contender, prospect, and gatekeeper. In a middleweight tilt, former light heavyweight champion and 185lbs. title contender “The Phenom” Vitor Belfort (19-9) will pit his murderous hand speed against the effortless technique of Japanese golden boy “Sexyama” Yoshihiro Akiyama (14-4). Welterweight “Superman” Dennis Hallman (45-13-2) will look for his third straight UFC win against fire hardened veteran Brian Ebersole (40-14-1). “El Conquistador” Jorge Rivera (18-8) will look to get back on track by defeating late replacement Constantinos Philippou (7-2) and starting things off for the evening “Quicksand” Mike Pyle (21-6-1) will meet “The Water Boy” Rory MacDonald (11-1) at 170. The talented and experienced Pyle has a well versed ground assault that is based in his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt. Arrayed against him is the balanced skill set of the young former King of the Cage champion in MacDonald. Both men are looking to make a case that they deserve to challenge the big dogs at welterweight and the result should be a tight, technical ground match where each man hunts for an impressive finish.
At First Glance: The first take of this bout looks towards a high-paced grappling match. Both men have a majority of their wins via submission with 17 of Pyle’s 21 victims playing the three tap symphony and six of MacDonald’s 11 following suit. However, the advantage in size, experience, and strength as well as overall technical skill rests firmly in the hands of Mike Pyle. This fact is certainly not unknown to the crew at Tristar Gym who are preparing the much younger, and much more well-rounded Rory MacDonald. Each man is looking to draw a line in the sand as a UFC welterweight as well. For “The Water Boy” it’s a matter of pride to get another crack at “The Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit (27-5) and prove that he belongs in the mix with the top level guys at 170. For Pyle, it’s to say “enough is enough” when it comes to fighting the division’s young bloods and to erase the memory of his 2-1 UFC start.
In Depth: Fights between men with something to prove, especially to themselves, are always exciting affairs. While the prospect of a 15-minute Jiu-Jitsu match elicits a groan from many casual fans, the need for a strong finish and difference in each man’s style will provide plenty of excitement. On the mat, both men are at their best but Pyle is better. Where his issues lie are in getting MacDonald, the superior wrestler and striker, to the mat in the first place. The young Canadian’s biggest asset in this fight is that Pyle will never truly have a place to relax because he is a major threat anywhere the fight goes. By contrast, MacDonald will be able to coast and calmly pick his shots as long as he stays on the feet with Pyle who has never been a particularly dangerous striker. This will make the fight a constant drain on the older fighter while “The Water Boy” can cool his heels anytime he manages to get the match off the ground. Pyle’s key to victory in this fight is his size. He has to get MacDonald down and underneath him in a position where his extra size and strength can wear on the younger man. From there, he can seek the fight-ending submission.
Wild Card: One of the most underestimated and dangerous aspects of Mike Pyle’s ground game is the fact that he is largely self-taught. Pyle didn’t join a grappling gym till long after he began competing and was largely successful in building a solid submission game from watching instructional videos and attending periodic seminars. While many self-taught fighters have glaring holes in their basic form, they are also completely unpredictable in their grappling. When a fighter is trained by a specific instructor or camp, a common thread can be found in the way he strings techniques together and that thread can be found simply by watching that camp’s other fighters and building on the similarities. A self-taught fighter like Pyle has no such predictability because he was never exposed to the technical bias of any particular camp or instructor. That makes him a submission threat from positions where it is totally unexpected and thus, nearly impossible to defend.
The Verdict: MacDonald is a rising star with solid basics in every aspect of the game and is the favorite to win this bout on paper. However it will most likely be Pyle whose experience and expertise rise to the occasion in this fight. Look for MacDonald to come out strong and make a good show of it, but expect him to fade in the later rounds as Pyle nickel and dimes him to death on the ground with his superior submission skills. Pyle via Unanimous Decision