Brendan Schaub was once regarded by some as one of the top prospects of the UFC heavyweight division – a high-end athlete who had developed good striking and takedowns. Then Schaub did something that’s a no-no for a high-level prospect: he was knocked out by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. He followed that up with a knockout loss to Ben Rothwell. All of a sudden, Schaub was no longer the five-star prospect or future of the division – instead, he was just a cocky fighter with a glass chin.
Not helping matters was Schaub’s embarrassing performance at the Metamoris grappling competition. When I heard that Schaub would be taking on Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu in a grappling match, my reaction was one of utter confusion. I’ve seen Schaub try to pass the guard of opponents like Mirko Cro Cop and Lavar Johnson… and it wasn’t pretty. Who in their right mind would think Schaub had a chance to beat somebody like Abreu in a grappling contest? Then the match happened, and it made sense. Schaub would win the match… by not grappling. Thankfully, it didn’t work.
Things like this aren’t endearing to MMA fans, who were already inclined to dislike Schaub in the first place. At the same time, I think Schaub has made a transformation from being an overrated fighter to an underrated one. His striking is fluid and easily above-average for the division. His takedowns are effective, even if they look like a linebacker making a tackle as opposed to more classic takedowns. His ground game is… well, safe, I guess. Yet it seems that people think Schaub is toast any time he faces a decent striker because of his chin.
Here’s my question: what if Schaub doesn’t have a bad chin? In 54 minutes in the UFC, Schaub has been knocked down three times. That’s not good, but it’s not as bad as Travis Browne (3 in 50 minutes) or Stefan Struve (6 in 81 minutes). And we’re talking about the heavyweight division, where every fighter should expect to lose by knockout at some point… even Cain Velasquez. Schaub probably has a bad chin… but there’s a chance he doesn’t.
Either way, I think Schaub has what it takes to defeat Matt Mitrione. In the past, I’ve regarded Mitrione as a potential UFC champion thanks to his 5-0 UFC start, which were also his first five fights in MMA. That kind of early-career success just doesn’t happen anymore, and led me to believe Mitrione might have a future as a top contender for the title. Then Mitrione looked horrible in a knockout loss against Roy Nelson, and any thoughts I had of Mitrione as a title contender went out the window.
Mitrione’s existence in the UFC has been one of a slugger who knocks out low-level UFC heavyweights. His list of victims includes Phil De Fries, Christian Morecraft, Joey Beltran, and of course Kimbo Slice. Mitrione thrives against that type of opponent – but has yet to show he can beat a fighter as good as Schaub.
Meanwhile, as good as Mitrione is standing, his takedowns/grappling remain a hole in his game. He’s been taken down ten times by a group of less than stellar wrestlers. Schaub should be able to take him down too – and as long as Schaub can do that, it’s hard to see Mitrione doing much off his back.
Yes, a Mitrione knockout is possible, perhaps even likely. However, Schaub is the better overall MMA fighter, and if Mitrione doesn’t win by knockout, it’s very likely that Schaub will win by decision or knockout himself.
Pick: Brendan Schaub by decision