I opened up to you about the surprise (trust me, it surprised the hell out of me) emotional meltdown I had following my first loss, but I don’t want to leave anyone thinking that I remained in such a fragile state of mind.
After I watched my fight, and I’ll admit, I’ve watched it more than a few times, I could see all my mistakes, but more importantly, I could also see where I performed well. This is kind of important, because for the first three or four days after the fight, I was pretty dejected about my performance.
The more I watched the tape, the more I knew I could get a handle on this and address the problem areas. At first, I looked at the fight as a hard lesson, but now, I view it as a really good educational tool to aid me in future fights.
I remember when I first came out of the back after the fight and I saw my brother. He was like, ‘Bro…’ and it wasn’t that he was attacking me; it was like he had a clear view of exactly what I was thinking. We both knew I’d gotten away from my basics, and did the things I’ve always instructed the students in my classes not to do. It was just one of those times where in that moment, I felt like I was in control of the ship. I just wanted to wow the crowd and pull off some of the things I was doing in the training room.
I was starting to realize that it wasn’t as bad as I felt it was in my mind, but that’s the hardest part to take in, knowing that if I’d done just a little bit more, I could’ve won that fight. I might not have gotten the finish, and it might not have been as pretty, but I could’ve had the W.
What it all comes down to is experience. That’s where Bryan Caraway won the fight, and that’s why I tip my hat to him, because he took advantage of the situation by keeping things clean cut with fundamentals and basics. It was definitely a huge learning curve for me.
I don’t want this to change me, in terms of making me a “safe” fighter. I’m already a bit of a safe fighter, and I don’t want to lose that willingness to take chances that net finishes. I strive to pull off things that have never been done or hardly ever happen. I want to be the guy that makes people say, “Wow! I wonder what he’s gonna do next?”
I’m trying to craft this lesson so it doesn’t dim that spark. I want to instill in myself the ability to be more calculated in my approach to the fight as a whole, including the lead-up. One major key is understanding my opponents better. There’s some things about Caraway that I underestimated. One of the biggest things was how flexible he was and the dexterity in his shoulders that allowed him to escape those shoulder-cranking positions I was going for.
Any other human being without that level of flexibility would have tapped. I hate to say it, but even myself, you put me in a position like that, where my shoulders and neck are compromised, I’d have to tap. He didn’t.
Another thing I intend to work on is getting comfortable with my striking. My boxing is something that we’re really going to dial in over the next weeks and months. I’ve been traveling a good bit over the last few weeks, but I’ve been training every place I go. Los Angeles, Florida, Canada — all of these places I’ve found somewhere to train and I’ve got some guys back home that are going to help me fix what I need to fix.
I’m approaching this the way I should have done, which is the same way I did to get to that next level of becoming an All-American. That means really honing my skills during the off-season, so that when I come back, it’s just like another day in the office.
I’m still at that point where I’m shocked when I land crisp combinations or a really effective, solid punch. It felt good to throw some leather rather than just kicks. Opening up with my strikes still has that new-car smell to it, and that fear of the unknown is just now starting to go away.
I spoke to my coach, Ray Longo, a few days later and we laughed about it. He said to me, “You tell me it didn’t feel good to punch him in the face,” and you know what? He was right. It felt amazing!
(Image via MMAWeekly.com)