UFC lightweight Michael Chiesa is still trying to get over the loss to Joe Lauzon from September. The pair put on a scintillating back and forth before a nasty cut over Chiesa's eye prematurely stopped the bout and gave the win to Lauzon. It's something that hasn't sat right with The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) alumnus, but it's also been used as cause to do things the correct way going forward.
"Well, I definitely wanted to let the cut heal," Chiesa told Ariel Helwani on Monday's The MMA Hour, explaining why he hasn't returned to the cage since that fight. "It was a hefty scar [and I] didn't want to jump back in the gym and have it reopened. I did some therapy type stuff and just got that scar healed up nice."
The physical scar, Chiesa says, is one thing. His body has repaired that. The emotional scar, however, has been lingering. something he's hesitant to admit, but cannot deny.
"It was just, that fight really put me in a slump. I'd be a liar if I said it didn't. It's one thing when you lose to [Jorge] Masvidal, you get beat fair and square -- I went out on my shield and it was a good fight. But the fight with Joe - it was hard to wrap my head around. So it took me a while to get out of my slump and I should have fought in March on that Ontario event that they canceled, so I got pushed out another month.
"The time off was good. My body needed it and it gave me a lot of time to improve. I know it is so cliché, but I'm not going to look the same this time out at all (smiles)."
Chiesa is still bothered by the loss to Lauzon given how the final stoppage happened. He claims it won't hold him back when he takes on Mitch Clarke at UFC Fight Night 63 on Saturday. He also believes, however, the loss to Lauzon should never have happened.
"I wish the fight was in Las Vegas," he says. "I'm not trying to live in the past and harp on things that don't really matter at this point, but it's like, when Joe sits there and says ‘oh yeah, the fight should have been stopped.' Hello, December 28th, 2012, I believe, you had a hatchet wound on your face that dwarfed mine and fought three rounds. Why don't I deserve my three rounds?
"You know what? It is what it is," he continues. "The past is the past and this is a good step forward for me, this fight with Mitch. It puts me in a weird little trifecta as far as the lightweight rankings go but I think it is a good step in the right direction."
And what, precisely, does Chiesa mean by 'trifecta'?
"You look at Al [Iaquinta], ranked 15th, lost to Clarke but just beat Lauzon. So what's going to happen if I beat Clarke and who knows -- I hope Al wins. I like Al as a friend. I hope he beats Masvidal. I'd love it, but what happens if he loses? What happens when I beat Mitch? What is that going to do with the rankings? It is this weird little circle where this guy beat this guy who lost to that guy."
That said, Chiesa isn't exactly upset with the task in front of him. For starters, he wants to put the Lauzon loss behind him. In addition, he didn't exactly ask for the Clarke fight, but is happy to take it given the circumstances.
"Actually, I had said something at UFC 173. I had said something after [Clarke] beat Al that I could kind of see him and me having to meet at some point. I haven't really said anything about this because I'm just waiting for the right time, but I talked to my boss and he had said that Mitch's manager called not once but twice asking for this fight. So, it is one of those things where I am not going to take offense to it. It made my job easier. I'm sitting on the fence after this Lauzon loss going ‘what do I do? Who do I fight? This is weird. I lost but I didn't get beat.' He made my job easier. I take no offense to it but it is one of those things where I'm going to have to make him regret that decision."
Many times in professional MMA, a fighter requesting to fight another is seen as a sign of disrespect. Chiesa, however, doesn't quite see it that way. To him, it's simplified the process. And if Clarke thinks he sees something in Chiesa he can take advantage of, that's an instinct in fighters Chiesa recognizes.
"It is a match-up thing, Sometimes you just see somebody and you see something that you think you can capitalize on. It is hard to say, really. I think part of that has to do (with the fact that) I've been submitted in d'arce choke and maybe that's his best move. Maybe there are some fights where guys have had some close catches on me. I know he is primarily a submission wrestler. He trains at The Lab with one of the best southpaws in the lightweight division, Benson Henderson. I'm a southpaw, maybe he feels he has some advantage there. I don't know."
Chiesa doesn't care much either. For him, this is the about getting back in the win column. If it has to come at the expense of Mitch Clarke, then that's how it has to come.
"There is something there he sees that he wants to capitalize on," Chiesa acknowledges. "Cool, challenge accepted."