September 17, 2010

by Brian Lopez-Benchimol – MMAWeekly.com Matt Mitrione, or “Meat Head,” depending on who you ask, is nothing but colorful. And while his sometimes eccentric, but enigmatic personality hasn’t completely translated into the cage yet, he’s getting there.

The Season 10 veteran of “The Ultimate Fighter,” was last seen in action against YouTube phenom and former castmate Kimbo Slice at UFC 115, where Mitrione displayed an expanded arsenal of skills that left many wanting to see more. After successfully dispatching the former backyard brawler inside of the second round, the 32-year-old will now be taking on a whole new animal when he fights before a familiar crowd on Sept. 25 at UFC 119 in Indianapolis.

Mitrione will lock horns with Joey Beltran, who’s 2-0 in the world’s largest MMA organization, in a heavyweight tilt on the Spike TV one-hour “UFC Prelims” special.

A long with his ties in Milwaukee, Wisc., with Duke Roufus’ camp, Mitrione splits his time with the Integrated Fighting Academy out of Indiana alongside UFC veteran Chris Lytle.

“I’m excited. You always want to be able to put on a show for the people you love, for your friends and family,” Mitrione told MMAWeekly.com.

“It’s going to be great, I’m really excited about it. I think Joey is going to be game, he’s going to just go in there and stand in the hole and trade up with me a little bit. If it ends up going to the ground, we’ll see who has the better ground game. It should be a great time. It should be a real exciting fight.”

While his performance against the aforementioned EliteXC veteran was impressive, Mitrione was a little surprised when he got word that his bout with Beltran was going to be featured on the Spike TV special. Both humbled and flattered, he’s well aware that his antics on TUF didn’t hurt.

“I couldn’t complain,” he said of the decision from the Spike execs to have his bout featured to potentially millions of viewers at home, serving as the lead-in to the pay-per-view portion of UFC 119.

“I’m so accessible to so many other people, this is just basic cable that they’ll be able to get me on versus fighting on pay-per-view. So I’m flattered and I really look forward to getting out there and landing my spot on there. I’m flattered that they even had any interest.

“You act like a jerk on TV, you might get a shot too, buddy.”

While the Springfield, Ill., native is improving fast, he’s not disillusioned with the fact that a 2-0 record hardly screams experience. Mitrione is making strides to progress his career from a throw-at-the-hip striker to a more well rounded fighter.

“I don’t want to be the ‘cliche’ guy, but I think that my game keeps developing,” said Mitrione.

“I had a pretty huge learning curve that I had to catch up on, and I still do, but I feel like I’m really trying to maximize my time in the gym, and I feel like I’m athletic and I’m intelligent. So I’m able to pick things up. I learn pretty quickly.”

With the aid of Tom Erikson, a Pride veteran in his hay day, who is helping to develop Mitrione’s wrestling, the former NFL defensive tackle is hoping to emulate the style of one UFC Hall of Famer in order to deliver the signature knockout victory that he’s been searching for.

“I think if it goes to the ground, I have a wider variety of submissions than Joey has submissions to work on, and not only that, but I’ve been blessed where I’ve been able to get up from the ground pretty easily no matter who I work with,” said Mitrione.

“I’ve been working with ‘Big Cat’ Erikson, who’s from back in the Pride days. He’s my wrestling coach. I’ve been working a lot with him about being able to completely avoid the ground, and if it all possible, I’d love to be Chuck Liddell, who can sprawl-and-brawl.”

Mitrione feels the fight will be decided in two areas, both of which he and Beltran strive in.

“I think Joey’s biggest strength is his takedown defense. I think he’s phenomenal at takedown defense. He has good hands. I would say a pretty good chin, but I don’t know what kind of power he’s seen, and I think he has real good cardio. So, I think that since I’m not looking to take down anyone at this point in my career… then it kind of leaves hands and heart. I think that both of us have that, for sure.”