Paint on a canvas. Individually, those colors are nothing more than shades of red, blue, green, yellow and so on. But the more strokes of the brush, the more those colors start to form images. It’s all up to the artist to bring everything together and form a picture.

In mixed martial arts, that artist is the fighter and the colors are the different elements of his or her game. The Ultimate Fighter 15 winner Michael Chiesa understands that. He returns to fight for the UFC for his third straight time on the FX network this Saturday. He will be one half of a featured preliminary bout that will lead into the Fox broadcast of the four-fight main card for UFC on Fox 8.

“I’ve just got a couple more hard practices left and then from there it’s just maintenance stuff,” Chiesa told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “Just focusing on the weight cut and just polishing off the little stuff. The big picture’s painted, man. Now, it’s just all the little details getting taken care of. Come the 27th, I’ll be more than ready to fight.”

Chiesa will be facing Jorge Masvidal, a veteran of 31 professional fights across several promotions, including Strikeforce, Bellator and now the UFC. Masvidal will have an experience edge over Chiesa, who has an unblemished nine-fight professional career. Masvidal is also an opponent that hasn’t had anything nice to say about Chiesa either, calling him a “watered down Royce Gracie” in an interview for MMA Junkie as well as dismissing any threat that Chiesa might bring to the table in their fight.

Chiesa (rear) chokes his opponent (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

“Regardless of what Jorge thinks of me in his last interview and what he said about me, I have nothing bad to say about him,” said the Washington native. “He’s a very tough opponent. He’ll be my toughest fight to date, so I’ve just been training very hard. The thing about me—without giving too much away—I’m better as the fight goes on. If this fight goes the distance, I’m ready to push, I’m ready to sprint, and the longer the fight goes, the better I’m going to get. I think it’s going to be a really good fight, man. That’s my prediction.”

Masvidal’s last eight fights have gone the distance in hard-fought decisions. In that span, Masvidal has faced a smorgasbord of competition, including such notables as Paul Daley, K.J. Noons and Gilbert Melendez in his recent Strikeforce tenure. Chiesa, alternatively, has finished his last six fights, but Masvidal will be his most experienced opponent to date. Therefore, this fight could turn into a grueling affair, a situation that the TUF alum hasn’t allowed an opponent to lure him into in the last few years.

Chiesa enjoys the thought of testing himself against an opponent that likes to war, even if he’s not one whose recent career has him standing in front of the judges. That may have fans wondering if his skill for finishing fights lends to an assumption that he isn’t prepared to last through a 15-minute war.

“I’ve got two gas tanks,” Chiesa said with a laugh. “I take this sport very serious. I’m not one of those guys that sits around and then has a six-week camp to get into shape. I’m a student of the sport. Literally, my last fight was over in February and two weeks later I was training in the Lab. So I’m always trying to improve, but I have the gas tank.

“Like I said, I have two gas tanks. So going the distance doesn’t worry me at all. I honestly look forward to it. I’m always looking to finish the fight, but if we go the distance that’s exciting. If you go 15 minutes in a fistfight with a guy that’s fought for a world title, I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that to me. That’s what my life is all about. My life is about fighting and my life’s about the challenge, and I’m getting everything that I want and more on the 27th.”

Both men come with well-rounded games, but they’ll be watching out for each other’s strengths. For Masvidal, it will be Chiesa’s relentless wrestling and submissions that require the most attention. For Chiesa, it will be avoiding Masvidal’s striking, which the veteran developed while brawling in the streets and honed while training in gyms.

In the recent interview that captured Chiesa’s attention, Masvidal claimed that he wanted to make a name for himself by putting the pressure on himself and his opponent to score a knockout. It will be an interesting wrinkle of a challenge for Chiesa.

“I’m more than prepared for Jorge to come at me hard, close the distance, try to look for that knockout punch,” Chiesa admitted. “I’m expecting Jorge to come and try to take my head off. Going by his interview, he feels like he can blow right through me, and I think he’s going to do all that and more. So I’m more than ready to take that shot on the chin to show him that, hey, I’m ain’t going down. I’m here to fight. You’re not going to take me out with one punch; I’m going to be in this fight for a long time. I’m more than ready for Jorge to close the distance. I welcome it.”

Whether they admit it or not, Chiesa’s opponents should come into a fight against the bearded lightweight mindful of the rear-naked choke that Chiesa has used to dispatch a majority of his challengers. It’s the move that his last two adversaries in the UFC saw before the ref waved off the fight and they were left laying on the mat, letting the reality off a loss soak into their minds. Still, according to Chiesa, it’s not that he’s trying to be the equivalent of teammate Cody McKenzie and his guillotine or like Paul Sass and his triangle.

Chiesa (L) celebrates (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

“It’s not something I look for,” said Chiesa. “You never want to force anything on a fight. My theory on fighting is that you go out there well-prepared in all aspects of the game and you just kind of let the fight unfold. Everybody has a certain niche, a certain something they’re good at, and that just happens to be something I’m good at. I get that rear-naked choke frequently because I see that opening in places that other people don’t. It’s just something I’ve been able to capitalize on in my career.”

For a wrestler like Chiesa, the move makes sense position-wise. He may train with a master of the guillotine like McKenzie, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to adopt it into his own repertoire just to be feared as a guy with great chokes.

“I’m a wrestler, so when you go for the guillotine you’re always giving up a takedown,” explained Chiesa. “And just the thought of that, I don’t like giving up takedowns. That’s why you don’t see me getting taken down.

“Nobody takes me down. Nobody has the balls to even shoot on me.”

Those are sporting words from a man that is more interested in treating MMA like a 24-7 job than he is in selling bravado in order to get fans to pay attention to him. It seems that Masvidal’s lack of respect has gotten under Chiesa’s skin. Both will be coming into this fight with something to prove in order to feel like they are moving forward in the sport at the highest level. But, hey, being compared to one of the sport’s greatest legends, even in diminutive terms, isn’t a total slap in the face.

Masvidal’s goal will be finishing the fight and getting network television fans to remember his name. But for Chiesa, the goal is to secure a win that he believes is already earned, it just needs to be acted out inside the Octagon.

Chiesa has the colors and the canvas on which to use them. Now, all that’s left is for him to paint his masterpiece.

Top Photo: Michael Chiesa (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

David Massey
Staff Writer

David Massey studied Humanities and Art History at the University of Central Oklahoma. He first found interest in MMA from the first TUF show and has been hooked ever since. He began posting on mmajunkie then submitting Sunday Junkie entries and that began his interest in writing about MMA. Through twitter David found other MMA enthusiasts and began contributing articles to marqueemma.com. He looks forward to growing as a writer and being a part of the sport he loves.