Following a whirlwind 2018 that saw him pick up four wins, including his UFC debut, middleweight Ian Heinisch was looking to keep his momentum going in his first bout of 2019 when he faced Antonio Carlos Junior at UFC on ESPN+ 10 in May.
Following three rounds Heinisch had done enough to stifle Junior’s game and came out with a unanimous decision victory, his fifth in a row.
“(Junior) is the best in the world at getting to the back and finishing people,” Heinisch told MMAWeekly.com. “He got to my back and I had to use all my training and my defense on that and kind of weather the storm.
“I couldn’t reverse him. I was trying to create scrambles. I feel I gave him a little more credit. I feel like I could have scrambled a little bit harder, but I was very cautious of getting caught in one of his chokes. I felt him start to break so I picked my pace up, changed gears, and I put it on him.”
The win over Junior was Heinisch’s first proper fight in six months following a last-minute cancellation of his scheduled bout with Tom Breese at UFC on ESPN+ 5 in March.
“I prepped for (the bout versus Breese) and still got paid my show money,” said Heinisch. “I plan on fighting one more time this year. I plan on getting in three fights this year. I kind of count that because I made weight and I showed up and he basically forfeited from my staredown.”
Heinisch (13-1) will look to pick up his sixth win in a row when he faces Derek Brunson (19-7) in a UFC 241 main card middleweight bout on Saturday in Anaheim, Calif.
“He comes from that good wrestling background, like I do. He likes to put the pressure on and I like to put the pressure on. He brawls and I brawl. So I feel like this is going to be a super exciting fight for the fans,” Heinisch said of facing Brunson.
“He’s knocked some guys out, so he’s confident in his striking, but his striking is very chaotic, I feel sloppy, and that can overwhelm people. My key to win this fight is just stay composed, keep everything down the middle, catch him hard, and not back up and let him come forward; I have to own the center.”
For the remainder of 2019, Heinisch has a very clear idea of where he’d like to find himself, and a couple of possible match-ups that could help him get there.
“My goal by the end of this year is to be Top 5,” said Heinisch. “If I can get one more win against a Top 5 guy after Brunson then that will be completed.
“You can always speak things into existence. I called Brunson out after my last fight and got the fight three weeks later. I’ve been looking at Jack Hermansson, but we’ll see who wins between him and Killa Gorilla (Jared Cannonier); and Jacare (Ronaldo Souza); someone like that. I feel like I’ve fought all these Jiu-Jitsu guys, might as well take the best ones.”