Allegedly rehabilitated a-hole Mike Kyle notched his fourth straight win on Friday night after a pretty entertaining fight with Ron “Abongo” Humphrey at Strikeforce Challengers 9. The two light heavyweights kept an impressive pace for eight-plus minutes and Kyle displayed some fairly dynamic striking before offering the clearly exhausted Humphrey a way out via rear naked choke roughly 3:30 into the second round. When it was over, Strikeforce play-by-play shouter Mauro Ranallo made somewhat vague reference to the victory being “the resurrection of a career once thought ruined” and a legitimately humble-looking Kyle repeatedly thanked God, trainer “Crazy” Bob Cook and his AKA teammates for “sticking by me when a lot of people didn’t.”
What they were both getting at, of course, was that prior to this current resurgence Kyle had basically done everything he could to drum himself out of MMA, in the process becoming the standard-bearer for bad behavior both in and out of the cage. But with seven wins in his last nine fights and now seemingly on the doorstep of a title shot in Strikeforce’s puddle-shallow 205-pound division, are fans really ready to accept Kyle as a renewed human … or as a valid contender?
We do love a tale of redemption and Kyle looked improved in taking out Humphrey. He’s clearly been at least making an attempt to shore up the deficiencies in his takedown defense/ground game and his stand-up looked as good as ever. The grappling skills aren’t yet up to par – certainly not for a clash with a wrestler like King Mo Lawal – and it was troubling that Humphrey was able to take him down and threaten him with a couple of awkward submission attempts, but Kyle is certainly on the rise. It’s hard to believe that after such a long and checkered past, the dude only just turned 30 in March. As weird as it feels to say, his career could still have some legs.
But how deep does the reformation of Mike Kyle go? It’s pretty easy to look like a new man while you’re trouncing guys like Humphrey, Tony Lopez and John Murphy. What happens if and when he encounters some more adversity? Aren’t longtime fans just waiting for him to blow up and do something else crazy?
We’re talking about a pretty lengthy jacket of offenses here, remember. In Kyle’s first appearance on the national stage – his Octagon debut at UFC 47 in April, 2004 – he was accused of biting Wes Sims on the chest en route to a knockout victory. In his next fight at UFC 49, he repeatedly kneed Justin Eilers in the groin before Eilers got around to KOing him. Then there were the eye pokes against both Tsuyoshi Kosaka in Pancrase (Kyle actually won that one by “technical decision” … thanks, Japan) and Krzysztof Soszynski in his Strikeforce debut, which was a ruled “technical draw.”
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