An Editorial by Matt Hill – MMAWeekly.com
Now that Travis Lutter and Matt Serra have been presented their crowns as the new kings of TUF Season 4, the question looming on everyone’s horizon is, “Are these two men ready for the champions in each of their respective weight classes?”
In his TUF 4 finale fight, Travis Lutter had about as close to a Bobby Southworth deemed ‘Flawless victory’ as any fighter could hope for. Lutter did exactly what he said he would do. He closed the distance between himself and Cote, got the takedown, and finished Patrick with the armbar. I don’t even think that Cote landed a single punch in the short length of that fight. To his credit, no one that Lutter fought in Season 4 even came close to beating him. I give Travis all of the credit that he deserves.
That being said, though, who did Lutter fight on TUF that is as quality of a fighter as Middleweight Champ Anderson Silva? Better yet, which fighters has Travis faced and beaten in his career that are at Silva’s level?
To me the answer to this question is no one. The best competition Lutter has fought in his career is probably Matt Lindland, and he submitted Lutter in the 2nd round.
I am in no way debasing Lutter’s skills as a fighter, though. Lutter has proven himself to be a worthy competitor to fight in the UFC, but I personally don’t see him becoming a middleweight champion anytime soon. I’m not saying that he doesn’t deserve a title shot – that was part of his incentive to do the show – but I am saying that if Lutter walks away with a victory over Silva; whether by submission, knockout or decision I will be astounded. I am not trying to take anything away from Lutter; I just don’t think that he’s in the same league as Rich Franklin or Anderson Silva.
When Anderson Silva smashed Chris Leben in under a minute, I was surprised but not shocked. When Silva smashed Rich Franklin just as dominantly in just under three minutes, I was stunned and definitely impressed. If Lutter beats Anderson Silva, I will be completely dumbstruck.
In my mind, Travis Lutter has about as much of a chance of beating Anderson Silva as Harold Howard from the old-school UFC does of beating Tim Sylvia. It’s always possible, but highly unlikely. Not that Lutter isn’t a stud fighter, but Silva is a beast of a man at 185 pounds and if Travis can’t get him to the ground it will be Silva’s third quick fight in the UFC.
What Lutter does bring to the table are submissions, though, and although Silva is a BJJ blackbelt under the Nogueira brothers, he has been submitted a couple of times. Granted these submissions have been somewhat bizarre ones – like a flying scissor heel hook – but they fall under the broad category of submission losses nevertheless.
As we have seen in his past performances, Lutter is a submission specialist and if he gets you even close to a bad position he will finish you 9.8 times out of 10. The Silva/Lutter fight somewhat reminds me of Tim Sylvia vs. Jeff Monson. Everyone in the universe knows what each fighter is trying to do; it just comes down to who forces his will upon the other man more successfully. The Sylvia/Monson fight also showed that a striker with a good sprawl could control the fight in its entirety. It should be no secret to anyone after two big KO wins in a row that Silva is going to do his best to take Travis’s head off. It also is no big secret that Lutter is going to try his best to get Silva on the ground and into a game of submissions.
This fight along with the Silva/Monson fight more closely resembles what the old UFC attempted to prove. “What happens when a ground fighter fights a standup fighter?” Now I know, fighters nowadays are much more well rounded than their UFC 4 predecessors, but it seems a bit similar to me nonetheless.
On to Matt Serra…
Matt Serra won a very close split decision victory over Chris Lytle to become the welterweight division’s newest TUF champion. Serra seemed to be one of the favorites to win throughout the TUF season, as very few episodes didn’t have him as one of the centers of attention.
Serra’s game plan was much like Lutter’s. Stand and punch only long enough to secure the takedown, and then attempt to dominate the opponent on the ground. While Serra’s game plan worked well throughout his time on TUF, the same game plan simply won’t work against top 170-pound competition.
Since St. Pierre dethroned welterweight champ Matt Hughes Saturday night, it is now Serra’s task to fight Georges ‘Rush’ St. Pierre. I believe that Serra’s chances for victory are almost lower than Lutter’s. St. Pierre is a brutally strong man, and as we saw in Georges’ fight with Sean Sherk and his second fight with Matt Hughes he is nearly impossible to take down. If Serra is forced to stand with Georges it would in my estimation be a quick night for St. Pierre…even completely lopsided, with a win going to Georges.
Don’t get me wrong, Serra has great skills on the ground and some nice punch combinations when on the feet – just ask Karo Parisyan – but after seeing St. Pierre fight Saturday night, I feel sorry for anybody that has to go through him to get to a title.
I don’t know if Serra is able to make the 155 cut, but it seems to me that he could be a much larger (no pun intended) presence in the lightweight division than he could at 170. Din Thomas moved down to lightweight for his most recent fight and he looked phenomenal. Unless Serra physically can’t make it down to 155, I think lightweight is where he belongs. As we all know, the cut to 155 was pretty beneficial to UFC Lightweight Champion Sean Sherk.
Serra is a very talented fighter with great mental strength and self-confidence, but for Matt to be on top of the 170-pound division he would have to outperform Georges St. Pierre, and I simply don’t see that happening right now.
Serra and Lutter are both great competitors, great fighters and ‘TUF’ guys, but the two champions that they happen to be matched up with now are each at the top of their games, and a victory over either of these men at this point in time seems dubious at best.