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With a Loss in Return to UFC Action, What’s Next For Portland’s Mike Pierce?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

 

Mike Pierce; via Mike Pierce's Twitter page

Injuries are par for the course when it comes to professional athletics. Sprains, bruises, cuts, hyperextensions, fractures, and ruptures fell some of the toughest athletes in the world. Mixed martial arts might be tops on the list when it comes to athletes being injured. Yet fighters are not only expected to rebound quickly; they are expected to return without having lost a step. For example, former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva suffered a career threatening leg break in 2013, yet returned to the cage just a year later only to have his performance highly criticized. This type of behavior certainly puts a tremendous amount of pressure on fighters returning from an injury layoff. 

Last weekend at The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale, Oregon’s Mike Pierce returned to the cage for the first time in two years to face that same pressure. After suffering a sprained MCL and torn ligament in his ankle at the hands of Rousimar Palhares in October of 2013, Pierce would begin a layoff that would effectively remove him from top fifteen consideration. Now back at full strength, Pierce returned to the cage only to come up short in a decision loss to welterweight Ryan LaFlare. 

What comes next for Pierce is anyone’s guess. With a respectable 9-5 record in the UFC, he is far from done in the Octagon, but certainly needs to show some urgency in obtaining a win. Last Friday’s loss marked the first time in his career that Pierce suffered back-to-back losses and that is a trend to which no fighter wants to grow accustomed. The loss to LaFlare wasn’t without its positives; Pierce did show his power in the third round as he connected multiple times to back up his opponent. By all accounts he won the third round and made the scoring much tougher for the judges. During many comeback bids, fighters show signs of slowing by the end of the second round, but it was clear that Pierce had the cardio to push a strong pace all night. Additionally, Pierce looked very light on his feet and used good footwork to try and adjust against the length of LaFlare. At this point, UFC matchmaker Joe Silva will likely be looking for another high-level fighter coming off a loss to pit against the tough veteran fighter.

Here are some fights that might make sense for Pierce:

1. Thiago Alves

In terms of his UFC record (13-7), he and Pierce are in a similar boat, good fighters who are near the top fifteen but have shown inconsistency as of late. Alves is always willing to get into a war in the cage and the heavy-handed Pierce has never shied away from contact. This fight could be decided on takedowns and takedown defense. Pierce, a two-time former All-American wrestler, would have a decided advantage in that department. 

2. Alan Jouban

Jouban is a relative new comer to the UFC, but has showed promise in all of his fights. Athletically he may be a step ahead of Pierce, which would give him an advantage when it comes to explosiveness. Pierce would appear to have a strength advantage in this matchup, so it would be interesting to see if he could use his power to slow down the talented young fighter. 

3. Cathal Pendred

Pendred has grown to be a fighter fans just aren’t willing to support. Unfortunately for fans, he ripped off four straight wins in the UFC before eventually coming up short in back to back fights just this year. While fans aren’t huge on the guy, it is clear he knows how to find a way to win. Pendred’s length could prove problematic for Pierce, but if able to get on the inside, Pierce would be able to get the fight to the ground and use his grappling to finish the fight.

With the initial shock of his return behind him, I expect big things from Pierce, and I expect them to come quickly. Don’t be surprised if he lobbies to get on a card very soon. Two years of inactivity can make a person a little stir crazy, and a fighter like Pierce, who generally fights three to four times a year, must be itching to get back in the cage. He is on the small side for welterweight, so I wouldn’t rule out a drop in weight to 155 pounds. No matter what road he decides to travel one thing is for sure, he wants to make back-to-back losses as much a thing of the past as he does injuries.                 

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

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