For an MMA career that has only spanned nine fights so far, Mike Chiesa has achieved a fair bit. He is undefeated, has seven submission victories (five of which come via rear-naked choke), won the Ultimate Fighter 15 and has gone 2-0 in his UFC career.
Despite his achievements, upsides and potential, he remains a fighter who is rarely talked about or focused on. That is what comes with being a fighter in the UFC’s lightweight division, arguably one of the most stacked in the organisation today.
It is a division where fighters like Donald Cerrone and Rafael Dos Anjos are not in most top ten rankings lists. It is also the division where fellow prospects like Khabib Nurmagomedov and Edson Barboza assert their dominance.
That makes it a bit more difficult for a fighter to stand out from the crowd, even one like Mike Chiesa, who has finished both of his UFC fights via submission.
Chiesa’s length, solid grappling skills and ‘dog fight’ mentality and fighting style has helped him compile a perfect record up to now, and he will need those attributes more than ever this weekend. That is because the ‘Maverick’ will face his toughest test yet as he faces Jorge Masvidal at UFC on Fox: Johnson vs. Moraga.
Masvidal is not a big name among the casual fans, but the Miami, Florida native has carved a reputation as a solid fighter in his 10-year MMA career. While he only has one fight in the UFC – a decision win over Tim Means in April – Masvidal has competed in Shark Fights, Sengoku and Bellator.
He also fought in Strikeforce, where he challenged Gilbert Melendez for the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship in December 2011, losing via decision. His experience at the top levels of MMA has helped make Masvidal the bookies favourite against Chiesa, a fight he has described as being like “giving [him] money”.
It may not be that easy though, especially given Chiesa’s proven ability to come back from adversity. Fans saw that ability in the Ultimate Fighter winner’s last fight against Anton Kuivanen, where he arguably lost the first round against the Finn, who managed to hit Chiesa with a few solid strikes.
Chiesa did not break down, however. Instead, he took it all in his stride and went into the second round fighting like a new man. It paid off as he got the submission win two minutes and 29 seconds into the second round.
While Masvidal’s 24-7 resume looks more substantial than Chiesa’s 9-0 record, it could potentially be more of an asset to Chiesa than it is for the American Top Team fighter. The former Strikeforce veteran is a definite step up in competition for Chiesa, whose UFC wins are over Al Iaquinta and Kuivanen.
A loss would obviously be a blemish on his perfect record, but the fight is surely one that can be seen as a ‘no lose’ situation for Chiesa, who was originally meant to fight Reza Madadi. If he loses, he will likely get a chance to redeem himself against another up and comer as he did in his first two UFC fights.
If he wins the fight, he will be one of most talked about fighters in MMA for some time to come, and will likely get a shot at another top 20 fighter. It will certainly not be an easy task for Chiesa, but the 25-year-old has a lot of momentum going his way in the lead up to Saturday night’s bout.
We will soon see if he passes his biggest test in the UFC.