Fabio Maldonado: MMA's Rocky

"The crowd will support me. They will cheer and cry with me. It will be a breathtaking fight. The fans will love it." - Fabio Maldonado

Fabio Maldonado is a scary guy. Not in the usual way, mind you, but as heavyweight contender Stipe Miocic prepares to fight Brazil’s “Iron Hillbilly” on Saturday in Sao Paulo, he’s got to be concerned with his opponent’s prediction for the five-round main event.

“I can withstand his punishment in the first three rounds, but he is gonna go through hell with me in the last two,” said Maldonado. “He is going to be miserable by the fourth round, and I’m sure this fight will last all five rounds. This is my goal.”

Scary, right? He’s not predicting that he’s going to knock Miocic out or submit him, but that he’s going to take whatever the American has to give, laugh at it, and then start dishing out his own brand of mayhem. Is it any wonder why Maldonado has become a fan favorite over the last few years? And those fans will be out in force at the Ginásio do Ibirapuera to cheer their man on.

“I’ll have the crowd on my side, especially in a fight against an American who is a lot taller and stronger than me,” he said. “The crowd will support me. They will cheer and cry with me. It will be a breathtaking fight. The fans will love it.”

> Watch - Fight Night Sao Paulo: Fabio Maldonado Pre-Fight Interview

He rarely, if ever, disappoints. Sure, he’s not pretty in the Octagon, blessed with technical wizardry or flashy finishes, and his 4-3 record doesn’t have him in the light heavyweight top ten, but when it comes to pure toughness, he’s unmatched. And if his fights weren’t proof enough of that, his decision to step up to the heavyweight division and replace his injured countryman Junior Dos Santos against Miocic on short notice cemented his reputation.

“The opportunity to face Miocic happened really fast,” he said. “When the UFC offered me the fight, I accepted in two seconds.”

He’s probably not exaggerating either. But why risk losing a three-fight winning streak against a bigger, stronger, and perhaps faster foe in a different weight class? Well, because he is confident that he will leave Sao Paulo with a fourth straight victory.

“Miocic is a great opponent,” said Maldonado. “He has really good wrestling and boxing skills, but he knows that it is not a good idea to try to strike with me. I’m gonna beat him up. Everybody knows I’ll do what I always do in my fights.”

> Watch - MetroPCS Move of the Week: Fabio Maldonado vs James McSweeney

When it comes to striking, it is an intriguing matchup, with Miocic a former Golden Gloves champ and Maldonado an ex-pro boxer who had a 22-0 (21 KOs) record. Of course, in an MMA match, there are more tools at each fighter’s disposal, and Miocic was a Division I wrestler in college, making it perhaps an easier bout if he can take Maldonado down and keep him there. But “easy” just isn’t in the Brazilian’s vocabulary. He seems to embrace the battle as much as he enjoys the wins, and if you want some insight into his character, just look at his first fighting influence.

“I dreamed of being Rocky Balboa, so I could never give up.”

He hasn’t yet. How’s that for scary?

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