Welcome to the debut edition of MMADiehards’ “Throwdown Lowdown.” Each week, one of our writers breaks down the mechanics of a pro MMA match and shows fight fans what it all means. Today’s column examines a war between welterweights Matt Riddle and Chris Clements at UFC 149.
Who: Matt “Deep Waters” Riddle vs. Chris “The Menace” Clements
What: UFC welterweight bout
Where: UFC 149 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta Canada
When: Last Saturday (Saturday, July 21)
Why: Clements entered the Octagon with two goals. First, “The Menace” wanted to make clear he belonged in the UFC following a lackluster split decision debut against Keith “The Polish Connection” Wisniewski at UFC 145 in Atlanta last April. Second, he wanted to court approval from his fellow Canucks. A Chatham, Ontario, Canada native, Clements wanted to improve his 11-4 record with a stunning win in front of an adoring hometown audience.
Riddle, for his part, entered the cage with a 6-3 record and a recurring problem with injuries. “The Ultimate Fighter” standout hoped to show the same potential he displayed on the show’s seventh season and earn a convincing win. Having won one of his last three, “Deep Waters” wanted to stay in the mix by starting a string of victories.
The good: Riddle rocked in this fight. Utilizing fluid level changing, he rushed Clements upstairs and downstairs with all the restraint of a tsunami. Relentlessly seeking takedowns, Riddle added twists, pivots and trips when more mundane varieties failed. It’s a strategy that worked, and “Deep Waters” planted Clements on the canvas at least five times.
Clements, meanwhile, did his best displaying superior striking. “The Menace” mixed unorthodox spinning strikes with crisp combos in an attempt at disorienting Riddle. Though it didn’t work, Clements also showed his ability improvising. Surprised by Riddle’s grappling game, he brought out a heavy sprawl and started stuffing more takedowns as the rounds wore on.
The bad: Clements clearly gave the lesser performance last Saturday night. Taken down on multiple occasions, he also lacked a ground game capable of scaring seasoned grapplers. Riddle roped Clements in with his wiry frame, controlling him completely and containing his escape attempts. When the two were on their feet, “The Menace” tried too hard on unusual strikes and left himself open to counterattack. Overall, it was a strategy that cost Clements victory.
That isn’t to say Riddle revealed a perfect performance. Dominating in most areas, Riddle’s striking still came up short. Though he used his reach to keep Clements at bay, the punches he threw were often timid and sloppy. “Deep Waters” made up for it with an airtight clinch and sharp knees, but at day’s end he’ll need more work before becoming a peak pugilist.
The ugly: Neither fighter made grave errors worth mentioning in their bout. Instead, that dishonor belongs to referee Josh Rosenthal. Riddle caught Clements with a booming body kick in round one, leaving “The Menace” winded. Rather than let the action continue, Rosenthal stopped it fearing an illegal groin strike. The poor call gave Clements a breather, and more importantly, may have helped him survive two more rounds.
The end result: Clements whipped out a desperate whirling backfist in round three. Riddle was ready for it, having watched him telegraph spinning strikes with his hip movement for the entire fight. Ducking low, Riddle caught Clements in an arm-triangle choke and threw a huge single-leg trip to bring him down. Once there, he hardened his grip on the hold and forced Clements to tap at 2:02 of round three.
What it all means: Clements left Calgary with an 11-5 record and an even tougher cross to bear. A recent UFC entrant, he’s won one of two and not convincingly at that. For his next fight, he’ll have to prove he’s major league material in dominating fashion.
In contrast, Riddle’s night couldn’t have gone much better. Now 7-3, his triumph last Saturday stabilized his record with a two-fight streak and counting. More importantly, the welterweight won in such convincing fashion he could call out other opponents with impunity. Riddle revealed he’d like to dance with “The Outlaw” Dan Hardy, and with his stock up, it’s possible he’ll get his wish in the near future.
Mark Hensch is an avid MMA fan who became interested in the sport through wrestling and karate. When not covering the hurt business, he serves as a digital editor for the Washington Times’ Times247.com in Washington D.C.