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Matt vs. Matt: It’s Been a Long Time Coming

The original match between Matt Hughes and Matt “Terror” Serra was set to occur at UFC 79 on Dec 29, 2007 after they were rival coaches on season six of The Ultimate Fighter, it was a title match with Serra still holding the gold since he did what most would consider to be one of the biggest upsets in UFC history, and defeated Georges St. Pierre at UFC 69 by TKO due to a savage flurry of solid punches. Then something unfortunate occurred, the bout was cancelled due to a herniated disc in Serra’s lower back. The replacement for the injured champ was none other than GSP who was back on his path for gold after completely dominating Josh Koshcheck at UFC 74, and earning a unanimous decision victory.

It would be a rubber match this time around and also a match for interim welterweight title. The first fight would be for a vacant title after then champ B.J. Penn had disputes and left the organization. Hughes would win their first match in 2004 at UFC 50 by a nice armbar in the first round of the fight with literally one second remaining on the clock he secured his victory and reclaimed the belt.

Their rematch would be in 2006 at UFC 65, GSP would prove to be the better fighter that night, and finished the bout in the second round due to a sharp head kick followed up by punches before the ref halted the bout. The rubber match would once again prove in the favor of GSP when he finished off Hughes with a nicely transitioned armbar in round two, forcing the Hillsboro native Hughes to verbally submit

St. Pierre would then move on to face a recovered Serra at UFC 83, this time for the official title of welterweight champ, GSP proved the first fight to be a fluke and dominated the bout no matter where it went. It was in round two when the interim champ began brutalizing the body of Serra with consecutive knees and no answer back, the ref was forced to stop the fight in favor of St. Pierre.

Since all of this occurred, Serra has been inactive after losing the title back to GSP (due mainly to injuries he was put on the shelf), Hughes had one more match where he fought on short notice to the now # 1 contender Thiago “The Pitbull” Alves at UFC 85, and in round two of the fight he was finished after a flying knee landed flush making the former division best collapse, which gave Alves the incentive to finish the fight with a barrage of followed up punches he claimed (T)KO victory and contender status.

GSP has held on very strong to the title and defended it two times since defeating the loud mouthed New Yorker, and will have his third consecutive defense at UFC 100 where he faces “The Pitbull”.

At Last…..Let’s Get ready to Ruuuumble!

So now we have a set date at UFC 98 on May 23, no injuries, two fighters, both former champs, both former rivals on The Ultimate Fighter, and they both want to beat the crap out of one another, which in my eyes usually equals fireworks and a fight that never hears all 3 rounds finish. Hughes of the two has a far more extensive career, his record is still a very game 42-7-0, Serra on the opposing end holds a record of 9-5-0 which in comparison pales. However even though he doesn’t hold nearly as many fights to his name, the Long Islander is a strong opponent who matches up very well with Hughes.

Serra is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu trained under Renzo Gracie, and was the first American to earn a black belt under the training of a Gracie on May 23, 2000. In grappling tournaments he holds wins over the likes of Takanori Gomi and others. Serra has strong hands but he is not known for knocking people out, actually his only (T)KO to his credit is the one he holds over GSP.

He currently is running Serra Jiu-Jitsu with fellow black belt, and brother Nick Serra. They of course have the Serra Jiu-Jitsu fight team which holds such fighters as Pete Sell, and Luke Cummo, which can do nothing but help in training.

On the opposite end of the rope we have Hughes who is known for his extremely strong wrestling ability, and is considered to be one of the greatest champs to ever grace the octagon (nine time welterweight champion). The former champ is also very diverse in his abilities, he has finished 18 of his opponents by submission, and 15 by (T)KO, he has strong credentials where ever it may go. The guy is capable of competing with the best, and during his prime he seemed almost unbeatable.

In over a decade of competing, the 35 year old Hughes has given us some very memorable fights. From the crazy defeat of Carlos Newton which earned him his first belt at UFC 38, to his battles with B.J. Penn, and his utter destruction of Royce Gracie, he truly deserves the respect for how much he has accomplished. Hughes currently is still running his HIT Squad team and gym out of Granite City, Illinois which houses the like’s of “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler, Matt Veach and other veterans and up and comers. He is known for being one of the hardest workers in MMA, and growing up working a farm during the year did nothing but make him stronger.

Who do you think will win?

I am not going to go and say that one fighter will beat the other, because to me this fight is really close and could go either way. Sure if it goes to the ground the Gracie trained fighter should have a dominant defense, but we have also seen that many fighters with a strong wrestling ability and decent knowledge of Jiu-Jitsu can nullify submission attempts.

Call it what you want, but I call it an excellent fight that is way too long in the making. Look for both of these fighters trying to prove that modern MMA has not passed them by like many fighters from the earlier MMA generation.

What we have seen is Serra doesn’t knock out everyone but he has the ability to finish the best given the right opportunity, and the same can be said about Hughes if not more (he is actually impressive when you look at who has beat him recently, they are all top dogs in the division).

So, yes the height will be working in favor of the HIT Squad leader being that he stand’s 5’9” in comparison to a stout 5’6”, but this is height difference that is something Serra is used to at this point in his career. To the credit of Serra he has a tough chin seeing only 2 (T)KO losses in his career.

So now with some brief history on both fighters you can make your call and tell us who you think will win when these two former champs face off on Saturday May 23 at UFC 98 which takes place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Nevada. Look forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts regarding the fight and actually seeing the event in just under three weeks.

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