Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
It’s been a strange road the last couple of years for heavyweight Mike Kyle. Originally one of the most buzzed about heavyweights on the circuit, lately Kyle has been in the midst of a transition period that’s seen him leave his longtime team and resurface in Japan for one of somewhat many controversial bouts in his career.

Things weren’t always in such a state for Kyle. After making his pro debut with a win at Gladiator Challenge 9 in 2002 after a successful undefeated career as an amateur, Kyle quickly caught the eyes of many within the industry. His impressive mix of size, speed, and relentless fighting and outgoing attitude made him a sought after commodity.

Brought up to GC’s parent organization King of the Cage in his next fight, Kyle’s inexperience cost him against the heavier and slower Dan Bobish. In Mike’s next fight he stood toe to toe with the more experienced Paul Buentello before being knocked out in the second round.

It was perhaps a case of too much too fast for the young Kyle. So he took the next year off and worked on his game with the American Kickboxing Academy and resurfaced in the WEC organization in late 2003. Quickly Kyle reestablished himself a force to be reckoned with as he knocked out “Scary” Jerry Vrbanovic in just twelve seconds.

Kyle remained on a tear, winning his next three bouts, never going to the end of the first round of any of them. The UFC, in desperate need of young heavyweight talent, quickly took notice of Kyle and offered him a fight at 47 against Wesley “Cabbage” Correira. It would have been a battle of two of the hardest hitters in the heavyweight division, but it never happened.

Due to Tim Sylvia suspension not being worked all the way out, Correira went on to fight Andrei Arlovski while Kyle was given a new opponent, Wes Sims. Sims, on just a few days notice, stepped in with Kyle and in what would become a highlight of the year moment for the UFC, Mike knocked out Wes in brutal fashion, but not without some controversy.

During the fight Sims had Kyle on his back on the ground numerous times in apparent attempts to smother Mike with an arm-triangle choke. Kyle was able to escape, get the fight back standing, and then drove Wes back to the fence where a right hand landed on Sims’ face, driving his head back into the protective railing, knocking him out.

After the fight it was revealed that Sims had bite marks on his chest, leading some to question Kyle’s tactics during the fight to escape Wes’ submission attempts. Controversy aside, the incident didn’t effect the outcome of the fight and Kyle got his first win in the UFC.

Four months later Kyle returned to the UFC against friend Justin Eilers. The fight was as many Kyle fights are, quick and brutal, as just seconds after it appeared as if Kyle had Eilers in trouble, Justin came back and knocked out Mike. This is where Kyle’s aggressive attitude shown through. Unhappy with the outcome of the fight, Mike flipped off the crowd and jumped from the cage to the floor and stormed off.

Mike was then scheduled to face James Irvin in the WEC, a fight that had been in the making for some time with the two fighters being the most talked about on the company’s roster at the time. After delays the fight was moved from the WEC to the UFC and Kyle got redemption for his loss to Eilers.

Just under two minutes into the fight, the larger Kyle landed a wicked shot to Irvin’s face and knocked him out. It appeared as if Mike was back and he could make a serious run as a contender for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. Things then changed.

Kyle left the AKA after a long relationship with the team and attempted to join Pride FC via open tryouts. Unfortunately Kyle didn’t make the promotion, but he found a new team, this time in the guise of Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic’s Team Cro Cop. Mike would now be training with one of the most feared strikers in MMA and one of the best heavyweight submission specialists in Fabricio Werdum.

In Mike’s first fight under his new team would be at Pancrase’s big October show last year. Controversy seemed to fallow Kyle, as he faced off against fan favorite and Super-Heavyweight King of Pancrase Tsuyoshi “TK” Kosaka. During a back and forth battle where it was clear Kyle was getting the better of Kosaka standing, Kyle accidentally poked TK in the eye shortly into the third round.

The fight was halted and Pancrase officials decided to let the fight go to a judges’ decision. Kyle won via unanimous decision, but due to the nature of the win it was decided that Mike would not claim TK’s title and thus Kosaka remained Super-Heavyweight King of Pancrase.

After taking a few months off, Kyle returns to the US for his first fight of 2006 against Devin Cole at the upcoming WEC event this Friday, January 13th in a fight that could very well determine where Kyle’s career is headed this year.

Against Cole the strategy is simple for Mike, keep the fight standing and use his tremendous knockout power to drop Cole. Going to the ground, while not as risky of a proposition as it had been early in Kyle’s career, thanks to training with Werdum, is still not an area Kyle should forcefully take the fight due to Cole’s experience on the ground.

Cole can submit anyone and has been in the ring with very accomplished heavyweight grapplers such as Jeff Monson. If Kyle gets careless and allows himself to take Cole too lightly, he could be in for a rude awakening as Devin looks to make a name for himself by taking out a high profile fighter and use the fight to elevate his career.

A win for Kyle will put him back in the collective conscienceness of the American MMA scene. With the UFC still in desperate need of consistent and entertaining heavyweight contenders for Andrei Arlovski’s Heavyweight Championship, a win could put Mike within contention this year for a title shot. A loss would see Mike continue to transverse smaller organizations while hoping to make enough of an impression to earn an invite to a big show later in the year.

This is a very important fight for Kyle. He’s at a point in his career where he needs to find definitive direction, regardless of controversies and personal changes. If he can stay focused and put everything together he could become a marketable heavyweight for an organization looking for entertaining fighters, both in and outside the ring.