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Chris Lytle, the Sure Bet

There are guys in the UFC who fight with absolute predictability. Chris Lytle is one of those guys.

ufc110_03_lytle_vs_foster_007There
are guys in the UFC who fight with absolute predictability. Chris Lytle
is one of those guys. Whenever he steps in the Octagon, his game plan
is clear to everyone in the room—it’s to stand and trade leather, to
bang on the feet until somebody drops, even if it’s himself. A
trademark image of Lytle would be a grin and a stream of blood running
down his face. We’ve all seen it; he ends up that way almost every time
he steps in the cage.
In the way there were Mike Tyson Fights distinctive enough to become
a certain “kind,” there are Chris Lytle Fights. They’re fun to watch,
painful to engage, and even a little bit (read: quite a whole lot)
incautious. From a fan’s perspective, there will never be a boring
moment in a Chris Lytle Fight unless the opponent insists.
And you know something? That’s what the 35-year-old veteran of 50
wars digs most. Excitement. That’s why he’s won six end-of-the-night
honors in his last eight bouts in the UFC.
“I’m going to go out there and fight as hard as I can whether I win
or lose,” he says. “That way I’ll at least feel good that I went out
there and fought the way I wanted to and did what I could. I know there
are probably smarter ways to fight and I don’t even care about that.”
What Lytle has long ago figured out is that he wants what everybody
wants, and that’s a good fight. The free-swinging welterweight’s not
without technique, as people remember from his stint on The Ultimate
Fighter 4—in fact, besides his pro boxing pedigree he’s excellent on
the ground if that’s where things must go. But it was the show’s
finale, the narrow split decision loss to a foot-stomping Matt Serra
back in November of 2006, that remains a pivotal moment for “Lights
Out” Lytle.
In that bout he fought not to lose, and it irked him enough to switch philosophies.
“Yeah, that totally changed the way I view things,” he says. “I look
at it like, there are guys up there who are close to getting a title
shot or have the title, and they’re always fighting to not lose it
seems to me. They’re not going out there throwing caution to the wind
and just going after it. They’re very calculated and try to be very
smart, and I don’t like fighting like that. I did it once and I don’t
want to do it again.”
Such talk might get him crossed off of Greg Jackson’s Christmas card
list, but it sure sits well with people who like back-and-forth
white-knuckle action. The truth is Lytle hasn’t fought not to lose
since then, but, sometimes by default, he showcases his fight acumen
and it's those smarts that end up propelling him to victory.
Just ask Brian Foster.
Reluctant to engage in a slugfest, Foster got a taste of the Lytle
reserves when he fell prey to a second-round kneebar in Australia at
UFC 110 this past February. Being tapped by an insistent boxer is one
of those damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenarios, but Lytle—who
took home submission of the night honors—points to it like a cautionary
tale for those who don’t know.
“If a guy’s going to totally give me something, I’m going to take
it,” says Lytle, who still doubles as a fireman in Indianapolis. “If a
guy’s going to take something away from me, it opens another door. So,
if you’re giving me a submission or an easy takedown, I have to take
that just to make you fight honest. Every time you close one door, you
open up another one for me and I feel like I’ve been training too long
and I’m pretty well-rounded in every area that if you open up something
I’m going to exploit that and do what I want to do.”
And that’s land punches, in flurries and in volume. Lytle (38-17-4)
will get a chance to swing (and happily be swung at) when he squares
off with “The Immortal” Matt Brown (13-8) at UFC 116 in Las Vegas on
July 3. The two met before in a UFL tussle back in 2007 when Brown was
still a virtually unknown up-and-comer fighting on regional cards.
Lytle admits he knew nothing about Brown going in, but the thing he
learned in a hurry was that he was in for a dogfight, that it wasn’t
going to be a smooth ride.
“The first time I fought Matt there wasn’t much upside for me other
than it was in my hometown, and he came out there and really came after
me,” he says. “I didn’t know who this guy was, but I immediately
thought ‘I’m taking this guy down and finishing him on the ground.’ He
was harder to take down than I thought, but I eventually did and
submitted him in the second round.
“He’s much improved since then, especially on the ground. I do like the way he attacks people. His attitude The Ultimate Fighter Finale Chris Lytle vs Kevin Burnsis to attack and get in your face and say ‘you can’t hurt me.’ I like to fight the same way, so I’m looking forward to it.”
It has all the makings of a quintessential Chris Lytle Fight,
another potential fight of the night for the man aptly called “Lights
Out.” Which brings us to another contention, this business about a
second “Lights Out” entering the UFC in the form of crossover boxer/MMA
fighter James “Lights Out” Toney.
The obvious question needs to be raised—is this street big enough for two Lights Out’s?
“No,” Lytle laughs. “I told Toney if he could get his weight down to
185 pounds, I’d come up to that weight class and we could fight for the
name, and the loser would have to think of a new one. I would come up
to 185 for that.”
He’s not exactly kidding, but he also knows the chances of a
41-year-old Toney making 185 are as comical as they are astronomical.
But when Lytle was coming up as a boxer, turns out he emulated the
champion Toney to the consternation of his trainers.
“That’s kind of funny because, I loved the way he boxed,” he says.
“When I got started boxing, I would watch one of his fights and I’d go
to the gym and I’d be fighting like him. My left hand would be down on
my hip and my right hand would be guarding my chin, sideways style, and
my coach would be like ‘alright, enough James Toney—don’t do the James
Toney.’”
The saturation of Lights Outs in the UFC aside, there’s still the
tough task Lytle has coming up come Fourth of July weekend, and he sees
the usual fireworks.
“Matt has a lot more experience now, he just looks like he’s
improved his overall fighting style,” Lytle says, dismissing the first
match as distant history. “I know that if that’s my whole game plan [to
take him down] I can essentially do that—but I can assure you, that’s
not my game plan. If that opportunity presents itself, like in the last
fight, I’ll take it. But it’s not my goal.”