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'Study & surprise him by trading blows': Only man to KO UFC's Jorge Masvidal reveals keys to victory

'Study & surprise him by trading blows': Only man to KO UFC's Jorge Masvidal reveals keys to victory
What does it take to stop Jorge Masvidal, the feared UFC welterweight? Brazilian former UFC fighter Rodrigo Damm, to date the only man to KO the 'Game Bred Fighter', told RT Sport his keys to victory were "surprise" and "study".

It's safe to say fight veteran Jorge Masvidal’s stock has soared so far in 2019, a year in which the Miami-based brawler is enjoying a purple patch in what is usually the twilight of a fighter’s career. 

At the age of 34 he has ripped through the division’s welterweight ranks with stunning knockout wins over Darren Till in London in March, and following that up with a five-second destruction of Ben Aksren at UFC 239 after an acrimonious buildup.

However, his success today comes on the back of years of ups and downs, amassing 13 losses along the way. Known as a fearless fighter with a tendency to prefer a black out to a tap out, only one fighter has ever made Masvidal taste a KO loss - Brazilian former UFC lightweight Rodrigo Damm. 

The two met way back in June 2008 at a Sengoku Lightweight Grand Prix bout in Saitama, Japan, where Masvidal had three of his four bouts that year. After a tentative first round, jiu jitsu 3rd dan black belt Damm decided to take on Masvidal at his own game, abandoning his speciality grappling to stand and trade. His tactics soon paid dividends.

“MMA is very unpredictable. I had more chances of winning by knocking him down. I even tried in the first rebound in the second round,” Damm, 39 and now retired living in his native Brazil, recalled the fight to RT Sport over text message.

“I tried to surprise him by trading blows and then I managed to connect with a good direct shot that knocked him down. After that I went for him, but the referee stopped the fight. I think the solution was to trade blows with him. Where I had less chances.”

RT

A searing straight right from Damm late in the second round detonated on the tip of Masvidal’s chin and flopped the Miami fighter to the canvas. Seemingly robbed of his senses, Masvidal looked unable to defend himself as Damm rushed to finish, prompting the referee to intervene.

Masvidal was left complaining that referee called a premature halt to their contest, but the record books show Damm as the only fighter to defeat Masvidal via TKO, an honor he still holds. 

The former Brazil national team wrestler believes that to outsmart a meticulous student of combat like Masvidal, whose fighting IQ is sometimes overlooked due to the nature of his recent wins, is to predict the unpredictable by scrutinizing his own fighting traits.

“He is an unpredictable guy, hard to knock down and very good at trading blows. He has been intelligent during his fights. He studies his opponents and surprised Ben Askren,” Damm says.

“The way to win was studying and surprise him with what he does best. That’s what I did and it worked.”

Since entering the pro MMA ranks in 2003, Masvidal has fought 47 bouts, having fought under the UFC banner since 2013. Since that time, he has clocked up wins over reputable names in the organization such as Donald Cerrone and Michael Chiesa, to go 11-6 under MMA’s biggest banner.

But only in his last two fights has the combat sports world been forced to sit bolt upright and take notice of the cold-eyed, laconic Cuban-American.

It’s partly down to Masvidal’s old fashioned way of letting his fists do the talking, and also down to good old fashioned talking itself: the right hand bomb that upset Darren Till’s London homecoming was followed by an assault of another Brit, Leon Edwards, a combination Masvidal dubbed the “three piece and a soda”, which fast became MMA’s most talked-about gimmick.

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That bite-size sound bite formed the basis for the back-and-forth before his fight with UFC newcomer Ben Askren. That was until Masvidal ended their fight after five seconds with a ferocious “whole MGM Grand f*cking buffet” flying knee to the face, with a side dish of trash talking while he was lay unconscious and washed down with a press conference promise of a 'slap' if they saw each other again.

READ MORE: 'I want to break his face': Jorge Masvidal calls for Conor McGregor fight and predicts 'easy' win

Masvidal has since been touted as a possible opponent to UFC cash cow Conor McGregor, who has not fought since failing to reclaim his lightweight crown against Russian current champ Khabib Nurmagomedov in October. 

The bookies seem to favor the American Top Team pupil, who has opened up as the betting favorite, should the two get it on in the octagon. The keys to victory for McGregor in that fight? Perhaps he could take a leaf from Damm's book and agonize over Masvidal's fight game, to save him the agony of Askren and Till.

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