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Matt Serra, Chris Lytle Expecting Much Different Fight in Sequel at UFC 119

Chris Lytle was "surprised" when the UFC called to offer him a rematch with Matt Serra. Serra was downright "shocked."

Typical UFC rematches happen soon after a controversial finish or because a title is on the line. When they come four years later, it's usually because of some bad blood, an old grudge or because the first fight was so good it's hard to resist going to the well one more time.

But that's not really the case with Serra-Lytle II on Saturday at UFC 119 in Indianapolis. By both Serra and Lytle's admissions, their first meeting was, well, a bit of a dud.

The welterweight veterans met in the finale of Season 4 of "The Ultimate Fighter" in April 2006. And because there was more than just a crystal trophy and some guaranteed UFC fights at stake, both fighters were plenty cautious. The winner would get a shot at welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre.

Everyone knows how the story played out. Serra won a tough-to-score split decision (30-27, 30-27, 27-30) and went on to notch arguably the biggest upset in MMA history with a TKO win over St-Pierre. And Lytle kept scrapping on prelim cards.
... I might've won [at TUF 4 Finale], I might've lost. I don't know. But I didn't fight like I know, and I decided after I'm never gonna fight that way again.
-- Chris Lytle

In their rematch, neither fighter has any intention of repeating the cautious and tentative style in which their first meeting played out.

"In my head, I was like, 'If I don't want this guy taking me down, he's not gonna beat me,' " Lytle recalled to MMA Fighting. "I don't know if I did a great job of doing that, but it didn't win me the fight in the long run. If I would've went out there and said, 'Go out there and try to stop this guy,' I might've won, I might've lost. I don't know. But I didn't fight like I know, and I decided after I'm never gonna fight that way again."

It's hard to argue with Lytle's results. In 10 UFC fights since his loss to Serra, he's pocketed post-fight bonus awards in eight of them – including four Fight of the Night awards.

Serra said "not letting loose" was his issue with the first fight, as well. But he doesn't think that will be a factor on Saturday.

"It's not like either of us went in there and got beat," Serra said. "And I think that's the difference if you watch some of our fights afterward. You'll see two guys going at it more."

Serra (11-6, 7-6 UFC) has fought just four times since his first bout with Lytle (29-17-5, 8-9 UFC). He won the welterweight belt from St-Pierre, then lost it to him a year later in the rematch. He lost a close decision to heated rival Matt Hughes at UFC 98. And at UFC 109, he picked up just his second career knockout when he stopped Frank Trigg in the first round, a win he said he hopes puts future opponents on notice that he's more than just a jiu-jitsu guy.

Though Lytle has fought 11 times since the first meeting, Serra said he doesn't think any perceived inactivity compared to his opponent will play a factor.

"I fight the way I train, the way I spar," Serra said. "And I've shown that in the past. It's not an issue with me. Other people could think it's an issue. I'm always involved with training and the martial arts. It's not like I go to a desk job somewhere and then throw on the gloves. My mental's always there – the physical's not always there. The mental part is huge, and I'm very strong mentally for the fight game. I don't just go through the paces."
My mental's always there -- the physical's not always there. The mental part is huge, and I'm very strong mentally for the fight game. I don't just go through the paces.
-- Matt Serra

Lytle, an Indianapolis firefighter who will be fighting in his hometown as a member of the UFC for the first time, said trying to predict how the fight will go based on how often the two have stepped in the Octagon is an exercise in futility.

"I look at that a couple different ways," Lytle said. "You could say, 'Wow, Chris, you've fought 11 times since then – you're way more active than him.' Then you could also say that's 11 more training camps, 11 times of more wear and tear on my body. He might be the fresher fighter – I don't know. Then again, maybe not fighting as much, you get ring rust. So it's hard to tell." But though both Serra and Lytle agree their first meeting might have been a bore and they expect something a little more exciting in the sequel, they might not be on the same page over what the other is planning for – which could definitely make things more interesting this time around – black belt against black belt, both with a little pop in their hands.

"I know Matt's extremely good on the ground," Lytle said. "He's got a very good, controlling style. I think if it gets into a potential ground match, neither one of us are going to be doing reversals, chokes – I think those are pretty exciting, ground-match wise. But I think ours, both being a pretty high level (of jiu-jitsu) I think would be a little slower than that. Only the really tactical and intelligent ground guys would enjoy it. So I'm hoping it's more of a standup, knock-down, drag-out fight where everyone can enjoy it."

Lytle wants to stand. But Serra is planning for things to hit the canvas, just in case.

"I know Lytle likes to bang, but I wouldn't be surprised if he tries to take me down," Serra said. "Not for fear of my hands, but strategically he could look to put me down. He's shown he's very dangerous with submissions. His ground game has been very underrated. I rolled with him before on the show and I know he's very talented in that area and he uses it well for mixed martial arts. So it would not come out of left field for me if he tries to take me down. So obviously I'm getting those bases covered."

UFC 119 takes place Saturday at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, the UFC's debut in Indiana and first trip to the Midwest since UFC 96 in March 2009. The main event features a heavyweight bout between former champion Frank Mir and Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic. The main card airs live on pay-per-view at 10 p.m. Eastern and will be preceded by a pair of live preliminary fights on Spike TV at 9 p.m. Eastern.