Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ vs Nitto Ridge Grappler

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If you’re looking for a tire that provides excellent performance in all conditions, then both the Nitto Ridge Grappler and Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ are worth considering. Both of them have been designed to deliver superior traction and handling, whether you’re driving on the highway or off-road.

Nitto Ridge Grappler
Nitto Ridge Grappler

In my expert opinion as a tire engineer, the Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ is although lacking on highways, it’s better in sand, mud, gravel, almost all off-road terrains. On the other side, the Nitto Ridge Grappler features better performance on roads, where it brings more comfort, traction and fuel/tread efficacy.

Tire Sizes

The Nitto Ridge Grappler offers 98 total sizes, in 16 to 24 inches, with following specs:

  • Load ratings available: SL, XL, D, E and F.
  • Speed ratings available: T or Q.
  • Weight range : 36 lbs to 91 lbs.
  • Tread depth range: 13/32″ to 18/32″ (Most common: 16.4/32″).
  • Sizes have no mileage warranty or 3PMSFR.

Review Nitto Ridge Grappler here: https://tiredriver.com/nitto-ridge-grappler-review/

On the other side, the Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ offers you with 15 to 20 inches rims, with following specs:

  • Speed ratings: Q only.
  • Load range: C to F.
  • Weight range: 47 to 94 lbs.
  • Tread depth range: 19.5 to 22/32″.

Tread Structure

Though in comparison, the Nitto Ridge Grappler being a RT can not compete with a mud-terrain in terms of aggressiveness, its still not too far off.

Nitto Ridge Grappler
Nitto Ridge Grappler

The tire offers very sharp triangular ribs in the middle, where the ones facing sideways have full depth notches, while the other two are equipped with sharp saw-tooth edges.

Together they render amazing traction on all types of terrains, even on mud, where they clean off the thick material with their X shaped grooves.

Though the tire is also pretty great on smooth highways, as all these lugs have reinforced foundations, and since lugs don’t have “a lot” of tread depth in the first place, they get to offer good enough stability there.

Moving towards the shoulder, its the same story, with minimal tread features, the tire offers above average rubber to road exposure, and with aggressive staggered edges making mud scoops the tire provides decent traction on rugged trails.

And further adding to that are its dual sidewalls, where they get to form thick enough lugs on both sides, And these come in handy with lowered air pressure especially.

On the other side, Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ being a mud terrain, features a more aggressive design to nobody’s surprise.

Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ
Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ

Let check out it’s middle part (of the tread) first.

Here you see triangular lugs with chamfered edges, and full depth sipes, making prominent lateral and longitudinal channels with the shoulder blocks.

Although they make symmetric design, they are still highly angled, connecting the grooves of shoulders on both sides, “laterally”.

So with this, sideways evacuation is achieved off-road, on mud and dirt filled surfaces, mostly.

And where these lugs with these grooves combined with sharp chamfered edges, and biters provide off-road traction, their closed up voids also ensure that on-road stability is not compromised by a lot.

Though that does not go for shoulders, as they are very open, with bold stone ejectors in between the wider gaps. And towards outer margins, they have thick mud scoops and (extend in to) lugs on sidewalls.


The harsh conditions of rugged terrains, requires the use of tougher tires, which can handle sharp rocks, and puncturing stones/dirt particles. That’s why off-road tires are given stronger rubber skin, reinforced with durable internal construction.

And both these tires are not an exception. They provide the same durability, as they both allocate 2 wide steel belts to their 2 ply polyester carcass, and reinforcing nylon cap plies on top.

One would argue that the Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ is still a little bit tougher with PowerPly XD technology (which basically makes the internal casing stronger), but since the Nitto Ridge Grappler has bulkier lugs on sidewalls (protecting it), I’d say they are both about the same.

On-Road Performance

Dry performance of a tire is judged by considering how it is in directional grip, lateral traction, and steering response. Let me discuss them all one by one.

Directional Grip

This grip is calculated by seeing the tire’s stopping distances and acceleration performance, and here the middle part of the tread plays a vital role, as it’s has the greatest weight and friction concentration on it.

Consider this fact, it makes sense why out of both tires, the Nitto Ridge Grappler provides better. It’s triangular ribs are much more streamlined longitudinally, and besides making larger rubber to road contact, they also offer stability with their reinforced foundations.

The Mickey MTZ on the other side, although has closed up placement in the middle (compared to its shoulders), they still don’t offer as much contact patch in comparison.

Dry Handling

The outer ribs of a tire along with sidewalls play a vital role in overall lateral traction. That’s because during cornering, the whole weight (the tire is carrying), gets transferred towards edges.

That’s why the Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ with huge lateral grooves there (widest on the tread), can’t render ample handling efficacy.

The Nitto Ridge Grappler on the flip side, features a much closed up lug design, which brings larger contact patch, and the lugs also have minimal tread features, ensuring smooth connection with the road.

Moreover, the tire also features a much faster steering response in comparison as well. So you can say, it won’t slow you down as much.

Steering Response

The handling of a tire and it’s response go hand in hand. And here besides the shoulder contact patch, there are a few more factors involved, where tread composition, and the tire’s weight are the main ones.

These factors basically tell how much would the lugs bend during the movement of the tire.

The Mickey MTZ with larger tread depth, softer compound and a heavier weight would bend its lugs more compared to Nitto Ridge Grappler, where the tread compound is harder, and lugs have reinforced foundations underneath.

These flexing lugs causes a tire to under-steer at first, which gets followed by over-steering, and as a result you see a lag between the steering inputs and the wheels feedback.

That’s the reason why Ridge Grappler shows superior speed ratings on it’s sizes. And why I don’t recommend this tire as a daily driver.

Wet Grip

Wet traction is the worst performance area for mud terrain tires. This is because these tires aren’t able to wipe water off at a micro level. Let me explain.

So on roads, water has to be cleared out, which is the only way a tire can grip, as water is not compressible. And although M/T and R/T tires are bald enough to channel most of that water out through grooves, avoiding hydroplaning/floating, the little that’s left behind still causes issue.

This left over water has to be wiped off with sipes, and with little to no siping on Mickey Thompson MTZ, the tire lacks severely. On the other side, the Nitto Ridge Grappler, is also not a rock-star here either, but it’s water wiping capabilities are still much better relatively.

Fuel Economy

Though these upcoming effect more pronounced for off-road/heavy-duty tires, heavier weight, and larger tread depth causes the lugs (on the tread) to bend more, and this increases energy wastage and decrease fuel efficiency.

That’s why the Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ with it’s heavier structure, and tread depth reaching up to 22/32″ gets to consume more fuel comparatively.

Nitto Ridge Grappler on the other hand, not only features a shallower tread voids, but it’s lugs are made more stable by reinforced foundations, so less fuel energy gets wasted on this tire (in to bending of the lugs).

Comfort Performance

Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ being a mud terrain tire would not be as comfortable here, which is no wonder. The tire with such wider tread voids, would not be able to provide stable ride, yet, it would be the least annoying. The most, would have to be noise.

With such balder structure, the tire allows the air particles to freely come in without any hindrance and hit around the walls (with full force), generating a very louder ride, even while Metallica is on (saying from experience).

Nitto Ridge Grappler on the other side, would be quieter, and more stable in comparison.

Winter Grip

Both tires are although not branded with 3 peak mountain snowflake ratings, you’d still find a better traction abilities on the Nitto Ridge Grappler.

This is because Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ does not present ample sipes, and its biters aren’t able to clutch the snow particles effectively, so it does not stick better on this this terrain.

Basically, snowflakes have a locking design, and they interdigitate with others producing more fiction, (a rubber to snow contact can’t have as much efficacy).

Mud Performance

Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ, being a mud-terrain tire, does a better job here, needless to say. Its wider combination of lateral and longitudinal grooves allow mud to leave out every which way, and its thicker sidewall lugs with bulkier mud scoops in them provide the needed digging.

These extreme elongated lugs throw mud backwards, as the tire rolls, which as a result produces a net force, propelling the tire forward.

Nitto Ridge Grappler on the other hand, can’t handle deeper terrains like it’s competitor. It’s narrower tread voids gets jammed up much quicker in comparison, and its sidewall lugs aren’t thick enough either.

Though on lighter terrains, the tire does fairly okay.

Grip on Rocks

A tire designed for rocky terrain should possess a flexible and pliant tread with lugs that can bend to enhance grip and traction in every direction. Additionally, you also need durable sidewalls to guard against sharp rocks and punctures, with thick enough lugs on top, that enhances climbing abilities.

Considering both tires, although one would bet on Mickey Baja MTZ to be a better tire here, being more aggressive, you can’t go wrong with Nitto Ride Grappler either.

Both tires have the same durability of 3 ply sides, and where Baja MTZ offers malleable lugs, the Ridge Grappler provide multiple biters on it’s triangular ribs.

And in case of sidewalls both have thick enough, the Baja MTZ has elongated shoulders with deep squared off biters embedded in between, whereas the Nitto’s boy give dual sidewalls with a more aggressive side, having similar biting tendency.

So overall, I am going to rate these both tires same here.

Check Out-
Are A/T tires good for rocks? : https://tiredriver.com/are-all-terrain-tires-good-for-rocky-terrains/

Sand Performance

Sand driving requires a tire with two main things, floating, and shoveling capabilities. And considering both , the Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ provides a much better performance here.

The tire features a supple tread, which gets even more pliable with lowered air PSI, and it’s huge elongated lugs, provide the paddling traction (a reason why paddle tires are the best for sand).

Nitto Ridge Grappler on the other side, lacks with it’s sharper sides and a harder rubber composition, and it’s sidewall lugs are also not so extended (comparatively), so they don’t stretch out as much, limiting tire’s floating abilities.


So overall it comes down to this, the Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ being more aggressive features a superior traction on sandy, rocky and muddy terrains, and although its on-road traction is good enough, it’s still lacking here.

On the other side, the Nitto Ridge does better on highways, in both wet and dry environments, though it’s wet traction is nothing to be proud of. Moreover, the tire features a more comfortable ride, give better fuel efficiency, and takes more time to wear off completely.

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