This weekend’s card brings us some more excitement in the featherweight division as star prospect Bryce Mitchell returns to the octagon to face off against division veteran Andre Fili, in what’s bound to be an exciting, unpredictable, and entertaining fight. Join us while we discuss the backgrounds of both fighters, break down their styles, and get ready for this coming night of fights.
THE CREATIVE SUBMISSION WORK OF BRYCE MITCHELL
While only having been with the UFC for his last four fights (if you don’t count his run during season 27 of TUF), Mitchell has already managed to amass quite a following due to his pressure heavy style and smooth, proactive grappling.
Most of you will no doubt already know him from his twister finish over Matt Sayles, only the second in UFC history, and while indicative of his opportunistic and creative approach to grappling, there’s a lot more to Thug Nasty’s ground game than weird submissions.
On the feet, Mitchel is a southpaw kickboxer who prefers to keep his distance, parry the opponent’s jab and wait for an opening which he can then capitalize on to shoot into a single leg. While we’ve seen him go for some doubles against the fence in his pre-UFC run, the single-leg is where he found the takedown that leads to his finish on Sayles, and he used it to abundant success in his match against Rosa.
Once on the ground, Mitchell is an extremely tricky but fundamentally solid grappler. If his opponent doesn’t make the mistake of immediately giving up their back, then he’s more likely to wait, hold and use tactical ground and pound to climb his way to quarter guard or full mount, where he can truly start looking for ways to finish the fight.
The Americana seems to be one of his go-to moves, and while this will probably never actually result in a submission against the more experienced fighters of the UFC (or any level of professional MMA, really) it does nicely set up for one of Mitchell’s favorites in the arm-triangle: We saw him use this to nearly submit Rosa numerous times, and the threat of it is what eventually caused Sayles to give up his back, leading to the twister that ended their fight.
THE SMOOTH BOXING OF ANDRE FILI
Andre Fili comes into this fight as the underdog, and it’s easy to see why: While Mitchel’s career has been all forward momentum, Fili’s tenure with the UFC has had its ups and downs, being 8-6 with the promotion so far. Having said that, it’s worth keeping in mind that his losses have all come at the hands of some of the best names at lightweight, such as Max Holloway, Yair Rodriguez, and Michael Johnson.
Fili hasn’t been able to quite break into that top echelon, but he’s more proven he’s at least able to hang with them. He’s a tough, technically sound striker whose long reach and smooth footwork make him a nightmare for anyone to deal with on an off day, but with some glaring holes in his game that could still present some serious issues against Mitchell.
Being a boxer in MMA, Fili shows all of the trademarks typical to his style: He has a long, snappy jab to keep his opponents at bay, a stiff right straight which he uses to punish opponents leaning away from him, and a fast lead hook that serves him well when angling away from pressure.
He’s well balanced, quick on the feet, and good at circling away, which makes him harder to drive towards the cage than other fighters. When he does get there, solid takedown defense and some good offensive wrestling of his own can go a long way towards both tiring his opponents out and keeping the fight on the feet.
Things get more interesting is in Fili’s tendency to switch stances as he circles in different directions. While Fili obviously favors the orthodox stance and stays in it through the vast majority of each of his fights, he does have enough distinct, powerful weapons in his southpaw stance to be a nuisance, and his ability to seamlessly shuffle between the two of them while moving away or in the middle of a combination allow him to catch his opponents off guard with some oddly angled shots.
Where Fili suffers, however, is in the defensive department: Much like many other fighters in MMA, Fili’s first reaction to incoming punches is to move straight back. Even though his range is often enough to keep him safe, he has a tendency to keep his head raised and still when punching and lacks the proactive guarding abilities necessary to stop what’s coming back at him when someone does close the gap.
This disadvantage might seem unlikely to come up against a grappler like Mitchell, but it’s something he could very easily take advantage of to score points, and maybe even set up an easy takedown.
Fili is beyond a shadow of a doubt the toughest matchup Mitchell has yet run into: He’s good at controlling the face, dangerous on the feet and perhaps most importantly, hard to take down. His range makes him difficult to get close enough to shoot into, and even if one does manage to close the gap, there’s still his solid clinch game and defensive grappling to contend with.
Having said that, he’s also far from the first good striker Mitchell has faced, and while he definitively has the skills to give him problems on the feet, I just don’t see him being able to avoid taken down for a whole three rounds. Once the fight gets to the ground, his defensive game is good, but it’ll be an uphill battle to stall Mitchell for long enough to get a submission.
I see Mitchell taking this one by submission in round two.
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