On the undercard this weekend at UFC 111, UFC newcomer Greg Soto steps into the octagon to trade punches with TUF 7 alum Matthew Riddle. I know what you're asking yourself.
Who gives a shit?
Well, that's a good question. The fight is on the undercard. No one, save for the 5,000 or so live viewers in attendance for the prelims, will even watch this fight. So why would the casual (or the hardcore) viewer find this fight interesting?
Viewers should find this fight interesting because the UFC seems to have taken a liking to Matthew Riddle. Despite his softball UFC resume, Matthew Riddle seems to have a unique opportunity in the world of MMA-- the opportunity to stick around for a long time.
So who is Matthew Riddle?
Riddle is primarily known to UFC fans as the goofy youngster with the toothy grin from the Ultimate Fighter 7. During the run of the show, he brutally smashed a fighter's jaw in two places (scary), proudly revealed that he lives at home and relies on his mother for rides (different kind of scary), lost a fight to Tim Credeur via armbar, and (after the show) moved to Arizona to become training partners with bff and in-house egomaniac CB Dolloway.
Riddle, or "Chipper," as Coach Rampage called him because of his constant smile, seemed to be a fan favorite despite losing very early in the season. He is 24 years old, has an enormous personality, and kind of looks like an abercrombie model (no homo). On top of that, he is a former NY state high school wrestling champ (a very big deal) and a jiu-jitsu purple belt. The UFC views Riddle as a big prospect, big enough that they have rewarded him with his fifth fight.
His opponent, Greg Soto, is an undefeated NJ local boy who was picked as a replacement for Ricardo Funch. This is his first appearance in the Octagon. He is a brown belt in jiu jitsu under Jersey Shore product Kurt Pelligrino. Soto is rumored to have pretty slick submissions. I have posted a clip of one of his 7 smaller-promotion victories.
In this above video against Shawn Foreman (Round 1, ROC 23), Soto immediately shoots a double leg and leaves his neck out. This is a rookie mistake. And, as a result, he is threatened with a guillotine. Then, while working from his guard, he uses an omoplata to sweep his opponent to his back and reverse positions. This is a slick jiu jitsu sweep, but will probably prove ineffective against a much bigger, technical wrestler like Matthew Riddle. It's a safe bet that Riddle's wrestling ability can defeat whatever Goto can offer.
Dana White once said that wrestling is the most important "base" that an MMA fighter can have. And it seems like the UFC brass sticks to this proverb when promoting new fighters. Nobody trains for success or detests failure like an elite wrestler. And, truth be told, it usually works. (But I'll save that theory for another post.) And that's how Riddle will probably win this fight. Wrestling. Either grinding Soto with elbows and punches on the ground or using his sprawl to keep the fight standing and use his very heavy hands to knock Soto back to the Jersey Shore. Riddle is too big and too physical to lose to Greg Soto.
Riddle has been working with an elite MMA gym for about two years. Before that, he was sparring in his friend's parents' backyard gazebo and learning jiu jitsu from the book "MMA for Dummies." (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matt_Riddle_(fighter))
Giving Matthew Riddle cage experience can only benefit both parties. Riddle has looked young in his decision victories against Dan Kramer and Steve Bruno, and lost his last his last fight to Nick Osipczak via brutal TKO. His clinch skills are very good, his takedown defense is also good, and his hands/punches are very heavy. If he continues to work on his standup game and his dirty boxing, the future is very bright for this kid.
And the UFC is banking on that bright future.