After 16 years and nearly 50 fights in MMA, former UFC heavyweight title contender Paul Buentello decided the time was now or never to make a change, so he moved down to 205 pounds for the first time in his career at the recent Legacy FC 22 show in Lubbock, Texas.
The results were better than some may have anticipated.
Buentello staved off a rear naked choke attempted throughout much of the first round of his bout with fellow former UFC fighter James McSweeney. He then finished the fight with a body shot after a sloppy takedown attempt by his opponent halfway through the second round.
“If you’d seen me fight before, if I dropped somebody, I never really attacked because I didn’t want to get caught in that scramble. So we really worked on my attack when somebody was down,” said Buentello. “We drilled that a few weeks ago, and I knew when I got to the leg-ride position, I was going for body shots.”
Buentello told MMAWeekly.com that he was just biding his time during McSweeney’s choke attempt and was never really in danger in the first round.
“In my experience, I knew to wait things out because he was going to make a mistake,” said Buentello. “He was being very, very aggressive and breathing hard, so I didn’t want to try to compete with that exertion with him and wear myself out.
“I waited until I got into the right position to let my hands go.”
For Buentello, the move down in weight had been something he’d thought about, but only finally decided to do when one of his trainers gave him the final push.
“It was always in the back in my head to go to 205,” he said. “Brad Barnes and I were talking about it, kicking it around last year, and finally he called me and asked me if I wanted to do it or if I was just going to keep fighting at heavyweight and wait for someone to call me.
“We had to make a splash and make it now and quit pussyfooting around with it. So he called me a week later and said I was fighting in Legacy at 205.”
With the win, Buentello raised his record to 33-15 and is currently riding a four-fight winning streak. While he doesn’t know what’s next, being able to make light heavyweight opens up the possibilities in what he hopes is a great second act to his career.
“There’s stuff on the table for fights for me right now,” he said. “Russia loves me over there, so I might be headed back there in October, but I’m not sure 100 percent.
“I’d like to maintain this weight and stay in shape because I want to be in the position to where I can be ready if I’m called up on short notice or to replace somebody. I just want to stay healthy, stay focused and keep the weight down and wait for the phone to ring.”