This week on the show, we have two fights in one show. I square off with Brian Geraghty, while Rob gets a second life and has the opportunity to fight Corey Hill. Team Pulver picked the fights, but we were very happy with the picks. I was ready to fight anyone on Team Pulver and was happy to be fighting who I thought to be their toughest remaining fighter. In one of my earlier blogs, I talked about how we tried to play some mind games with Team Pulver and get them to choose a pick we wanted, which was Corey versus Rob. It didn’t work at the time, but in the end it did work out as that was a fight Team Pulver chose.
I had actually met Brian before we moved into the show. I had fought down in Florida a few times before fighting in the UFC, and Brian was on one of those cards so I got to see him fight. He was warming up in the same locker room as me and I could tell he was good on the ground the way he was moving around. Then he was hitting mitts and he looked great there too. I got to see his fight and he completely dominated the kid with punches, then kneed his opponent in the head and put him away. I remember thinking, "Damn, I don’t want to fight him". Fast forward to the first day of the show, and there he is. Wonderful. The first day there, we had evaluations with the coaches. Brian was in my group, and I don’t remember if I did any stand up with him, but I know we did some grappling and he took me down and kept top position on me. It really went his way from start to finish which was a little discouraging. One thing that kept me positive though was thinking about how I hadn’t trained in nearly 2 months prior to the show, and I would do better after getting back into training. I had banged up my wrist pretty good a month and a half before the show, so I wasn’t able to do any boxing or wrestling. I decided to rest my wrist and hope that it would be better for the show, which it was. If you pay attention to the Team Penn training sessions, you will notice that in almost every clip I have my wrist all taped up. So I took a beating in evaluations, but knew I could do better once I had a few days to train. The fighter I was on the day of evaluations, was a far different fighter than the one that had trained with BJ Penn 5 hours a day for 4 weeks straight. My cardio and technique was much better come fight time, and I was super confident going into the fight.
Leading up to this fight was a little different for me, because Brian and I were hanging out the night before we fought. Just talking about how much it sucked making weight and we were both sitting there stuffing our faces with everything from water, to pasta, to shakes, to Snickers Ice Cream bars. I don’t ever "hate" someone I am fighting, but I also don’t usually hang out with them the night before the fight either.
I really don’t get nervous for my fights. Some guys like to get all amped, get excited and get into their "zone". I like to stay calm. I just talked about how I had been training 5 hours a day for 4 weeks straight. Why do some people get nervous about doing 15 minutes of something you spent countless hours doing? It’s a different than training, but its not so different that you should entirely change everything you do. For me, I stretch out and jump around for a few minutes to get blood flowing into my legs. Thats what I do before training, and thats what I do before I fight. Everyone is different, but thats what works for me.
I think I really had BJ worried while warming up and before the fight. They kept joking "You know you have a fight, right?", but they were good and understood I knew what I was doing and how I liked to warm up, and they let me do my thing. Once I got in the octagon, BJ really starting getting worried: "Lets go, Lets Joe Joe. Be aware, Wake up. C’mon hands up!"
Something I found funny watching the show, was how accurately I predicted my fight. Thats always the big question people like to ask: How are you going to win? How is your fight going to go? During my pre-fight interview I said "Take him down, beat him up on the ground, put him in our corner, grind him against the fence, drop bombs, beat him up, mount him, choke him out." Aside from the lack of mounting him, I really couldn’t have been more visionary. I didn’t really remember how my prefight prediction went, but looking back its kind of cool. That was my ideal fight, and it went perfectly.
Like I said, I knew Brian had good standup, so I rushed in aggressively when he threw his first punch. I had been working a lot of wrestling with Tony Desouza, and it showed by how quickly I got in for the takedown. Starting off on the right foot is important to get the momentum of the fight in your direction, and thats just what I did until it was over. Once I had the body lock, I slammed Brian (and my own head) down hard on the mat. I threw a few punches, kept him at odd angles on the fence making it tough to defend, and landed some good punches and elbows. With one of the elbows I knocked him out for a split second, and I knew the fight was mine. He had that dazed and confused look and was clumsy and lost coordination. I stood in his guard and cleared his legs and threw a big elbow with bad intentions. It looks on the video like I missed, but I think I grazed the side of his head with it, before it landed solid with the floor of the octagon. Either way, Brian got back to his feet but was still clumsy and slow because of the earlier elbow that knocked him out and I jumped on his back and sunk the choke. The fight really couldn’t have gone any better for me, and I think it was a pretty dominant performance. Most importantly, I was happy to have it be over with. In fighting, there is always the saying "You are only as good as your last fight". I had a lot to live up to coming off my win over Jens, but I was happy with how the fight went.
I think BJ was proud that I gave 100%, I listened to what he showed me in training, I went in there and used it in my fight. A lot of the things I did in the fight came directly from what we did in training. The shot was something I had worked on a lot with Tony in training, and even how I cleared the legs was something we had worked on a lot.
The number 1 question everyone asks me: How was it being on the show when you knocked the other coach out? This episode finally addressed the fact that I knocked out Jens in my last fight. One of the things Jens had said to Brian was "Forget that he hit me". Jens even needing to say that, shows you how much of a mental advantage I have on a lot of people in the house. Its never a good sign when your coach is telling you "Forget that he knocked me out". Thats never good for your confidence. Jens and I acted like professionals to one another. I wasn’t about to go running around pointing it out to everyone, and he wasn’t going to be bitter about it and call it a lucky punch or anything else. In MMA you can live and die by a single punch, you can’t start talking about when you lose it was a lucky punch and when you win its because you were better. You just have to see it for what it is… it only takes one. When I walked into the gym on the first day, he came over and gave me a big hug and was joking about how I was "the upset" and screwed up all of his plans. It was weird training for the fight with Jens and talking about how he was coaching the show and I was just looked past by everyone. It kind of brings a smile to my face knowing Jens was supposed to knock me out to hype him as one of the coaches on the show, and here I am as a contestant because I knocked him out instead.
Watching this weeks episode, I had no idea Corey had so few fights. I was still under the impression he had 8 or whatever fights coming into the show. I am super impressed by that… he came in fearless and didn’t care how much more experience everyone else had. He came in to win, and thats what he did this week.
We thought it was a good matchup for Rob. Rob has good standup, was in great shape and has good takedown defense. Corey kind of comes in throwing bombs but doesn’t have very technical standup. Corey has a lot of reach though and moves around well. When we were in the house, I thought Rob won the fight. After watching it half a dozen times, I still think he won the fight. They even showed a clip of Dana saying he thought Rob won, so it seems odd to me that the judges saw it otherwise. I thought Corey had round 1 and gave Rob trouble adjusting to the difference in reach. In round 2, Rob came back hard with leg kicks and did a lot of damage with them. The leg lock at the end of the round 2 ensured Rob the round. Round 3 was more Rob doing damage with kicks, and I thought he had the round. Corey moved forward more, but its tough for Rob to keep coming forward and walking into jabs all around. Rob did way more damage as a whole, and I still thought he took rounds 2 and 3.