Analyst Chael Sonnen looks ahead to the big Bellator 243 heavyweight clash between Matt Mitrione and Timothy Johnson and says 42-year-old Mitrione can still go on fighting at elite level.
The veteran takes on Johnson in the co-main event of the night at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut – live on Sky Sports Mix at 3am on Saturday night.
Mitrione (13-7 MMA, 4-2 BMMA) has already said he won’t be taking Johnson lightly after coming off a big knockout win over Tyrell Fortune.
Speaking to Sky Sports’ Ed Draper, Sonnen believes Mitrone is head and shoulders above his opponent and will prove it on the night.
“Mitrione is hard to beat. He just moves so well and he’s such a great athlete and he knows how to move his feet. I’ve seen guys throw perfect punches at him and he doesn’t even flinch,” said Sonnen. “I’ve seen more air balls thrown at his face and he doesn’t even blink. It’s really quite remarkable how good his eyes are.
“If Tim is going to beat him, he’s going to have to hit him and he’s going to have to catch him the same way he caught Tyrell. I think that’s possible and I think if he slows down Mitrione then it becomes even more possible, but it would surprise me.
“I think Mitrione is head and shoulders above where Tim’s at today.”
Johnson has stated he has gone away from his wrestling in how he goes about his fights over the last few years. Asked whether he will avoid striking with Mitrione, Sonnen says he won’t and expects the pair to go at it hammer and tongs.
“These two knuckleheads are going to throw everything at one another and one of them will go down in the first round. I don’t know who that’s going to be. They’ve both go pretty good chins, but they’ve both got even better power in their hands.
“If Mitrione can find some of those late kicks then it could make a difference because he just kicks like a mule. If he can get one or two of those inside leg kicks then it will be a little bit of a different fight but I don’t think we’re going to have much intelligence between these two.
“Those two knuckleheads are going to just go swing.”
Mitrione has a distinguished football career at Purdue University and professionally in the NFL with the New York Giants and the Minnesota Vikings which adds to his armoury in the cage.
“I think it adds to what an athlete he is and it adds to the fact that he’s just a winner. Whatever Mitrione has ever tried to do in life he’s found a way to succeed in it. He’s found a way to learn new sports.
“Speaking to Matt, he says he really enjoys it everyday, going in and helping his teammates. If he likes doing it, he can go on for a while. Mitrione is special.”
Bellator 243 main card
Lightweight Main Event: Michael Chandler (155.9) vs Benson Henderson (155.6)
Heavyweight Co-Main Event: Matt Mitrione (262.6) vs Timothy Johnson (263.2)
Lightweight Main Card Bout: Myles Jury (155.6) vs Georgi Karakhanyan (155.5)
175-Pound Contract Weight Main Card Bout: Sabah Homasi (175) vs Curtis Millender (174)
Bellator 243 is live at 3am (BST) this Saturday on Sky Sports Mix with Michael Chandler vs Benson Henderson 2 and Matt Mitrione vs Tim Johnson headlining.