by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
Dustin Hazelett will step into the Ultimate Fighting Championship Octagon for the fifth time when he faces Josh Koscheck at UFC 82. He is the underdog going into the bout, but it’s a role the Kentucky native relishes, as all the pressure is on Koscheck.
“I don’t mind being the underdog. I think it kind of alleviates some pressure because nobody is really expecting you to win,” Hazelett told MMAWeekly. ” I think that it’s one thing that might give me an advantage in this fight, as I think he might take me lightly also.”
Hazelett is 3-1 in the UFC riding a three-fight win streak heading into the bout. Koscheck is coming off of a loss to Georges St. Pierre at UFC 74 and Hazelett feels like all the pressure is on Koscheck.
“I never really feel the pressure. I would say, for him, he should be feeling some pressure going against someone like me who’s a relative unknown in the grand scheme of things. A loss like that on top of being his second loss in a row would kind of be detrimental to his career,” commented Hazelett.
When presented with the opportunity to face Koscheck, Hazelett liked the stylistic match-up and didn’t hesitate accepting the fight. “I was very excited because this is a chance to really showcase my skills and test myself against a really tough opponent,” said the 21-year-old fighter.
“One reason I was really excited about his fight is because I’m fighting a wrestler, who in order for him to play into his strong suit, he has to also play into my strength.”
He continued, “I’m real good about catching submissions on the way down from takedowns, so that’s something I always look to implement. Anytime anyone takes someone down, no matter how good of a wrestler that they are, there’s always a split second where they’re over-extended or posting on the mat, and that’s something that if you’re quick you can take advantage of.”
Hazelett’s training was tailored specifically for Koscheck and he feels he’s ready whether it stays standing or goes to the ground. “I’ve been working a lot of striking because I watched the Diego (Sanchez) fight and I realized that was a very real possibility in that if I couldn’t out-strike him that I would be in trouble. That’s been one of my top priorities is being able to out-strike him and outwork him off my back. Those are the main two things I’ve been focusing on.”
He added, “I don’t’ really care if I get taken down, so it really frees up my striking because I don’t have to worry about throwing big shots or kicks or anything like that against a wrestler because if they take me down I’m in my guard, which is my strongest place. It really liberates your stand up when you don’t have to worry about getting taken down.”
When he steps into the Octagon with Koscheck, Hazelett is expecting and looking forward to a “war,” and he “can’t wait for it.”