Brazilian Fabio Maldonado has 21 knockouts in professional boxing and 12 knockouts in MMA, and on Saturday at “The Ultimate Fighter 13” finale he plans to show Kyle Kingsbury what striking power is all about.
When the talk about professional boxers making their way into MMA is brought up people think of names like James Toney or Kermit Cintron.
One name that hasn’t come up very often however is Brazilian light heavyweight Fabio Maldonado. While some MMA fighters have dabbled in professional boxing, Maldonado got pretty good at it, racking up a 22-0 record with 21 knockouts.
Unfortunately for the boxing world, the “sweet science” just didn’t hold Maldonado’s attention, so he decided to try his hand at MMA.
The result? As vicious a puncher as there is in the sport, knockout power in both hands, smaller gloves, and Maldonado has to admit less rules also make him happier.
“I’ve always wanted to fight with less rules. One thing I always missed in boxing, for instance, is what happens after the clinch. You would clinch and nothing would happen,” Maldonado said in an interview with MMAWeekly.com. “I like the MMA gloves better, the punches ‘fit’ better. I’ve always liked MMA, I always liked them both (boxing and MMA) the same, but boxing was becoming a bit decadent.
“With boxing, you never know if you can make it or not, it’s always been sort of a question mark to me. I see a lot of close people and friends who have been struggling to make it in boxing and never did. When in doubt, I chose MMA. I had a dream of becoming world champion in boxing, but I left that aside and decided I would try that with MMA instead.”
Maldonado’s plan has been working out so far. With an 18-3 record, the Brazilian has won his last 11 fights in a row including knockouts over Maiquel Falcao and James McSweeney.
The knockout of McSweeney is of particular interest not only because it was his UFC debut, but also how Maldonado employed a body shot that sends shivers through anyone’s midsection.
His rib-crunching attack left McSweeney in a heap, and as one of the most devastating, but underutilized tools in MMA, Maldonado loves using the weapon to break an opponent down.
“I believe that every fighter should stick to what they know best. A lot of fighters, when they see me fighting, might say ‘oh, he should use the head kick more, he should kick the thighs some more,’ but every fighter has his own style and expertise. Many times, those guys who say they can do anything don’t excel at any of those things. Body shots aren’t easy, you don’t just go out there and punch. You need to have the right technique, so you can wear your opponent out without wearing yourself out. He has to get tired of getting beat up, instead of you getting tired of beating him up,” Maldonado described.
He says that body shots and punches fit his style of fighting. While Maldonado worked on developing his kicks, it just never came along at the same speed as his punches so he continued to cultivate his hands and it paid off.
“It’s a matter of style. To me, that’s what’s so fantastic about MMA. Every now and then, a guy like Machida shows up, with this lower guard and everything, and it really works for him. I bet a lot of people said his style would never work, but his family gave him the confidence to go on and he became champion. To me, a fighter needs to have personality, like Anderson Silva. To me, that’s his strongest suit. Who am I to tell a Lyoto, a Shogun, what they could do?” said Maldonado.
“In my case, when I realized I was no good at landing kicks, I decided to emphasize on my hands, so I undermine my opponents with body shots with my hands. The good thing about body shots is that they wear the opponent out. When you land a lot of body shots, the opponent gets tired sooner and, therefore, ends up landing less shots. You can see that in my fight against McSweeney, he was attacking a lot at first and then, when he realized I wasn’t stopping, he started slowing down. I am very strong and very resistant.”
Facing McSweeney, Maldonado was fighting a fellow striker, but in his next match coming up at “The Ultimate Fighter” finale on Saturday night he faces Kyle Kingsbury. A tough, gritty fighter with big knockout power and solid takedowns.
Maldonado points out that Kingsbury is probably a better wrestler than he is, but that doesn’t mean he’ll get the fight the ground or won’t get punished for trying.
“His wrestling is the main threat. It’s not fantastic, but all the American fighters know how to do takedowns. He knows the basics and a little more,” Maldonado said about Kingsbury. “He also lands some good leg kicks, and I noticed that sometimes he just stands there not doing much for a while and then just explodes on you. He hasn’t got bad stand-up skills, but I don’t think he’ll try to trade punches. We are pretty much at the same level on the ground, but I do think I have a slight advantage.”
Whether it’s Kingsbury, McSweeney or Alistair Overeem, Maldonado isn’t afraid to trade punches with anyone. He welcomes a stand-up fight on Saturday night whether Kingsbury wants to give him one or not.
“Even if they bring in a K-1 champion, I would like that type of fight,” Maldonado said with a laugh. “I would like that with anyone! I am a bit proud when it comes to that, I always want to show how far I can go. But I think the fans would like it even more than I would. Usually, my stand-up fights get the crowd going.”
He’ll look to get the crowd on their feet again this Saturday night when he faces Kyle Kingsbury on the main card of “The Ultimate Fighter” finale airing live on Spike TV.