Overall when looking back on his 2018, light-heavyweight Alton Cunningham feels that even though he suffered his first career loss, overall the year was good for him because of what he learned from it.
Following his loss to Bevin Lewis at Dana White’s Contender Series in July, Cunningham was able to rebound and close out his year with two straight victories.
“Going on the Contender Series, fighting on there and having my performance go the way it went, it wasn’t able to go my way, but we were able to learn from it, rebuild, go back to the drawing board, and I was able to finish the year really strong,” Cunningham told MMAWeekly.com.
“I had some adversity, but it was something I was able to overcome and become a stronger fighter mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.”
For Cunningham, the growth he saw in his game has him feeling like the most complete fighter he’s been in over the course of his five year overall career.
“I see (growth) everywhere,” Cunningham told MMAWeekly.com. “I was doing some rounds with my training partners and the things I’m naturally doing now I wasn’t doing last year; in my stand-up, my ground, and the way I mix up my attacks.
“Also mentally I feel like I’ve matured and developed so much. It just feels surreal how everything is clicking at the right time. I’ve grown so much mentally as a fighter that I have no worries or concerns going into my (upcoming) fight.”
Cunningham (7-1) will look to pick up his third straight win when he faces Tony Johnson (7-2) in a main card 205-pound bout at Dana White’s Contender Series on Tuesday night in Las Vegas.
“All I need to do against this guy is be myself and apply pressure,” Cunningham said. “The real question is if Tony is going to be able to withstand what I’m going to bring to the table that night?
“I’m coming with heat. I’m coming to hurt him. The vicious shots I’m going to be hitting with that fight I don’t feel like he’s going to be able withstand that a whole three rounds. I’m going to be hitting this guy so frickin’ hard I don’t see him making it out of the first or second round.”
While his bout at the Contender Series could be career-changing for Cunningham, he’s going to put as much of that aside and just focus on the task at hand and trying to defeat Johnson.
“Honestly I just put it aside,” said Cunningham. “It’s contact season, and my mind is set on that contract, but once that bell rings a fight’s a fight and I’ve got to get that win.
“This last year (at my first Contender Series appearance) I was thinking a little too much about it and I let the nerves get to me. Now it’s just a matter of going in there and performing, executing and applying that pressure.”