Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC 136 Preview: Steve Cantwell vs. Mike Massenzio

Goodness, another week with a UFC event? It seems like I can barely breathe with all of these fights going on. Of course, I really enjoy it, but I can understand those who assert that the UFC is over-saturating the market.

UFC 136 will start with a middleweight match between Steve Cantwell and Mike Massenzio. Massenzio started his UFC career 1-2 and was released, but was recently brought back to take on Krzysztof Soszynski on very short notice at UFC 131. He had a very tough time in what turned out to be a pretty bad fight to watch. Wrestlers tend to rely on size and strength more than strikers and grapplers, and Massenzio just couldn’t get the bigger Soszynski to the ground. The result was a pretty clear decision on the side of Soszynski.

So it’s good to see the UFC rewarding Massenzio’s willingness to both take the fight on very short notice and fight above his weight class with another fight. It’s also good to see the UFC giving Steve Cantwell another chance. Cantwell lost to Cyrille Diabate in his last fight to drop to 1-3 in the promotion, but that only happened after Cantwell was forced to take over a year and a half off of fighting (and cancel a UFC 120 fight against Stanislav Nedkov) due to undisclosed medical issues and a knee injury. While I think that long layoffs aren’t as devastating to a fighter’s chances of winning as most would expect, I also think it’s prudent to give fighters like Cantwell the benefit of the doubt.

The thing I find interesting about this fight is: Cantwell gets hit a lot, but Massenzio doesn’t land very many strikes. A look at the Fight Metric data for Cantwell suggests that he’s losing by simply getting hit far too often. Being hit by 87 Significant Strikes against Luiz Cane is bad. Being out-struck by Cyrille Diabate 146-28 is a disaster (and I believe the numbers there, having watched that fight). Cantwell is a striker at heart, but he’s getting hit a lot… not a good combination.

He might get let off the hook in this fight, though, because for whatever reason, Mike Massenzio just does not land a lot of strikes. He seems instead to be a wrestling/grappling kind of fighter, and that was great against Drew McFedries, who Massenzio submitted with a kimura, but Massenzio landed takedowns against Brian Stann, and lost by triangle choke as a result.


Both fighters are very flawed, but I think Cantwell has more of a history of success than Massenzio does. Looking at each man’s fight history, it seems that Massenzio is ill-equipped to exploit Cantwell’s glaring weakness (striking defense). I expect this to be a battle of striker (Cantwell) vs. wrestler (Massenzio). If Massenzio can land takedowns, he has a chance, but even then, there’s no guarantee of victory. If Massenzio can’t land takedowns, then he’s toast.


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