by Ken Pishna
Saturday night, Matt Lindland, long denied a shot at the UFC middleweight title, will step into the Octagon once again in an attempt to get that shot. Standing across from him will be a man looking to be his spoiler once again, Joe Doerksen.
On the surface of this bout, it would appear that Matt Lindland is the scraggly old seasoned veteran; when in all actuality, it is Doerksen that has more mixed martial arts experience. Lindland has fought just under 20 bouts to Doerksen’s nearly 40. Of course, Lindland is pretty scraggly and seasoned anyway, but that’s beside the point.
The big difference in experience here is how much weight you give to quantity over quality. Both fighters have had their share of tough fights, but more of Lindland’s battles have been in the UFC and against fighters many times considered top ten caliber.
Comparing their accolades, Doerksen has only lost 6 times in his 37 fights; those losses were to Eugene Jackson, Matt Hughes, Stephan Potvin, Egan Inoue, David Loiseau, and Joe Riggs. That’s some pretty stiff competition, but they were still losses. His victories include fighters such as Lee Murray, John Alessio, Denis Kang, a tournament in which he defeated Desi Miner, Jay Buck and Brendan Seguin all in one night, fellow Canadian Patrick Cote in his return to the UFC after losing to Riggs, and the Team Quest tri-fecta of Chris Leben, Ed Herman and Art Santore. An impressive list of victories to be sure, but none was really considered top ten at the time.
Scanning through Lindland’s past, he has only three losses: one each to Murilo Bustamante (in a title fight), Falaniko Vitale, and David Terrell (in an attempt to earn another title shot). Again impressive, but still losses. So, whom can he claim wins over? Let’s try Ricardo Almeida, Phil Baroni (twice), Pat Miletich, Ivan Salaverry, Falaniko Vitale (in a rematch), Tony Fryklund, Mark Weir and Travis Lutter; most of which were or are considered top ten caliber.
So, tipping the scales on experience, it all depends on how much stock you put into facing top caliber competition, where Lindland has the edge. But if you put more weight in quantity, where a fighter sometimes has to face some unknowns that are a lot better than their lack of reputation might lead you to believe, Doerksen would capture the lead with more than twice the experience.
In my book, the experience edge would go slightly to Lindland. One: because of his experience against some of the best fighters in the world in MMA. Two: because of his experience in grappling at the highest levels in the world as an Olympic wrestler (and he’s got the Silver medal to prove it).
Of course, with his pedigree, Lindland has the superiors wrestling skills in this fight. Doerksen, with his Brazilian Jiujitsu prowess, definitely has the edge in submissions. There’s a good chance that the two skill sets will cancel each other out. Lindland has a good ground and pound off of the takedowns, but Doerksen is adept at maneuvering out of trouble when put on his back (except for that Riggs fight). And Lindland has improved by leaps and bounds in his submission defense since being subbed twice in his fight with Bustamante.
Both fighters are excellently conditioned. The biggest skills factor in this fight could end up being who is able to gain the advantage when the two are banging away on their feet. Both Lindland and Doerksen have consistently honed their stand-up skills over the past couple of years. It is probably Doerksen that is more sound technically, but Lindland likes to throw out that big looping haymaker that he picked up from working with Chuck Liddell and John Hackelman and that baby will put the lights out in a hurry, if it lands. In the end, the edge on the feet probably leans slightly in Doerksen’s favor.
With the skill sets being fairly close and with both fighters training in great camps (Lindland with Team Quest in Oregon and Doerksen with Jeremy Horn’s Elite Performance in Utah), this fight will probably come down to the intangibles. Yes, those crazy ass factors that you really can’t quantify.
If either fighter has a crazy ass factor in their favor, it has got to be Lindland. Though he prides himself on being a fighter that just wants to go out and stay busy, fighting anyone and everyone in his path; there’s no denying that he wants a title shot. After losing to Bustamante and the champ’s subsequent departure from the UFC, Lindland has constantly been pushing his way to a title shot and coming up short.
Although Lindland was consistently winning, for the longest time, the UFC kept the middleweight championship vacant. When they were finally close to reinstating the belt, Lindland got KO’d by David Terrell. He hasn’t lost since and could have held out for a title shot against Rich Franklin, but he is fighting Saturday because he wanted to stay busy. He didn’t want to wait around for six months to get his shot. So now, like a dog backed into a corner, he is once again in a position where he has to win to get back into the title hunt. And an animal with no way out, but to come forward and attack is a very scary proposition. If there is one intangible in this fight that gives the edge, I’d say that is it.
Not one to cower and whimper, the position that Lindland has really put himself in this time, could be his greatest ally, as Doerksen works to establish himself as a UFC fighter and contender.