Matt Mitrione is never afraid to speak his mind and tell it like he sees it, which, along with his aggressive and exciting fighting style, has endeared him to UFC fans since his Octagon run began in late 2009.
His latest opponent, Christian Morecraft, hasn’t been bashful in claiming his intentions for this Sunday’s heavyweight bout at UFC on Versus 4. But instead of engaging in a war of words Mitrione is pulling a Mark Cuban, laying (relatively) low and waiting for his actions in the cage to state his case while his opponent does all the yapping.
“If you say you’re going to beat the piss out of me on a video then I’m really excited to see what you’re going to come up with,” Mitrione said during his appearance on MMA Beatdown radio on the MMA DieHards Radio Network. “If you want to start writing checks (with your mouth) then I’m going to make you try to cash them.
“I don’t talk trash, but if people ask me I’m going to say I’m going to try to punch him in the face until he goes to sleep. I’m witty and crafty, and I can rip on him in so many ways and really tear into him, but I feel that’s really overrated.”
This bit of pre-fight antagonizing should make Sunday’s tilt even more interesting, but once the cage door shuts at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh it’s going to, as always, come down to which man can impose his will. Mitrione might be pretty eager to drop a couple shots on Morecraft’s chin, but there’s no disrespect on his end. He knows he’s going to have to bring his best and fend off Morecraft’s strengths if he wants to improve his perfect record to 5-0.
“Morecraft brings a unique skill set that I haven’t seen at all,” Mitrione said. “I think everybody knows this and I’m not surprising anybody when I say this: he doesn’t want to stand with me. He wants to get me against the fence and throw me down and maul me, and I really haven’t seen that in a fight. That was Tim Hague’s game plan but he never got his hands on me. Hopefully that’s the same way this fight goes.”
Thanks to his NFL career, Mitrione is no stranger to dealing with opponents who bring substantial size to the table. Morecraft stands 6-foot-6 and has an 81-inch reach, so he’ll be well-equipped to grab a hold of his opponent and put him to the mat. Once there, his length and weight cause problems, just as they did to Stefan Struve in the first round before the towering Dutchman knocked him out early in the second round. Morecraft, a 24-year old Washington, D.C. native, began his career with six straight wins in regional promotions out of Plymouth, Mass. His UFC debut came against Struve at UFC 117 and his Octagon record currently stands at 1-1 after he choked out Sean McCorkle with a standing guillotine at UFC Fight Night 24.
Mitrione has only known the bright lights and big stage of the UFC in his mixed martial arts career. After competing on the 10th season of The Ultimate Fighter, Mitrione fought and defeated Marcus Jones via knockout during the season’s finale. He has since gone on to defeat Kimbo Slice, Joey Beltran and Hague, earning Fight of the Night honors for his win over Beltran.
A win on Sunday would push Mitrione to 5-0 and allow him to continue climbing the ladder in the heavyweight division. He knows opponent selection isn’t up to him, so there isn’t anyone particular he is looking to get into the cage with. It may be cliché, but he’s taking the approach of simply beating the next man in line and going from there.
“I’m not trying to put the cart before the horse and get greedy,” Mitrione said. “I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given. This is a serious fight for the fifth one of my career. I’m not trying to fight (UFC heavyweight champion) Cain (Velasquez) yet. I understand Rome wasn’t built in a day and I’ve still got a lot to learn. I’m no spring chicken – I’m 32 turning 33 soon (July 15) – but I’m ready to scrap. I bust my stones and prepare for everyone the same way. I travel to get the best coaching in the world and from that I prepare to be successful.”
Morecraft has certainly ticked off Mitrione with his comments and claims, but “Meathead” is aiming to smartly use those digs as motivation. He’s going to let Morecraft put the pressure on himself, then make him back it up.
“To be honest, I’m really excited to see what kind of game Christian Morecraft brings,” he said. “I want to see how aggressive he is, how much he’s going to push the pace. I’m a grown-ass man and if you’re ready to scrap then I’m going to make sure I touch your chin once or twice. If you’re fortunate enough to win you’re never going to want to fight me again, I promise that.”