With Zuffa in the midst of a lengthy fall break, this week’s focal point is the 35th event from Canada’s Maximum Fighting Championship. The main event features a middleweight title tilt between Joseph Henle and Elvis Mutapcic. The fight will air live on AXS TV on Friday, Oct. 26.
Henle will enter the MFC ring with an unblemished professional record. A veteran of The Ultimate Fighter, Henle impressed the MFC brass in August with a first-round TKO over submission ace Luke Harris.
Like his opponent, Mutapcic also wowed at the last MFC event. He picked up his third straight win with a dominating TKO over Jacen Flynn. The 26-year-old carries with him an 11-2 record into this fight.
Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills matchup against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.
Henle picked up just the second stoppage by strikes of his career in his last outing, but that doesn’t mean his stand-up is a weakness. Although he hasn’t used it extensively in his MMA career, Henle does possess a black belt in taekwondo. However, it’s his boxing that has seen the most improvement since his time on the UFC reality show. He finished Harris with a textbook double jab that was as much proper technique and location as it was power.
Meanwhile, Mutapcic also showcased strong technique in his MFC debut. He unloaded on Flynn from the clinch, dropping him with a series of knees. The Bosnian fighter was methodical in his attack, before finding the perfect moment to unload. Perhaps more impressive than his finish of Flynn was his 25-second knockout of TUF: Brazil winner Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira with a vicious left hook just three fights ago. His five career finishes with strikes make up roughly half his wins and give him a slight edge when the fight is standing.
The most intriguing part of this match-up is the submission game. Both fighters possess a diverse arsenal on the mat, with a combined nine tapouts in their 19 victories.
Henle has stopped half of his bouts with chokes, but his bag of tricks is deeper than that. Many forget that during the elimination fights on TUF 11, Henle finished current UFC fighter Constantinos Philippou with an armbar. While it has been his striking that has shown the most obvious improvement over the past few years, the Reign Training Center product’s bread and butter is still his submission game.
Like Henle, Mutapcic has utilized his submission game to halt a large portion of his opponents. The most impressive part of his finishes is the wide array of techniques he’s used. In his five-year career, he’s never used the same method twice, scoring wins by rear-naked choke, guillotine choke, triangle choke, armbar and heel hook. Yet, against an experienced grappler like Henle, Mutapcic is likely to find himself in a stalemate.
Henle’s background doesn’t include collegiate wrestling, but he did wrestle and play football in high school. Coupled with the fact that he trains with a former NCAA national champion in Mark Munoz, “Leonidas” is more than capable of taking the fight to the ground when he wants to. Against an explosive striker like Mutapcic, that could be a very important factor in the outcome of the fight.
Although Mutapcic has lived in Iowa since high school, he does not have the type of wrestling pedigree that most fighters in the Midwest possess. By no means does that mean he’s incapable of taking the fight to the ground, but he is at a disadvantage in this match-up.
There is more than just the MFC belt on the line in this fight, as both fighters are looking to make a splash on the entire MMA world. While the winner may not make an immediate jump to the UFC, they will put themselves in prime position for a future move. Can they handle the pressure? Will Henle’s past reality show experience give him the edge?
In a combined 22 fights, these two have only gone the distance five times and neither has been finished. Can Mutapcic handle Henle’s athleticism? Or will Mutapcic’s explosive striking give him an advantage?
Verdict: This fight has everything you’d expect of a title fight. These two talented middleweights are sure to put on a show. Mutapcic is bound to score early on the feet, but Henle’s big show experience and better training camp should allow him to weather the storm and grind out a win. Henle by unanimous decision.
Top Photo: Joseph Henle (L) works for a takedown (Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog)