What many consider meaningless, Antonio Banuelos considers meaningful. What others regard as frightening, he regards as enlightening. What some perceive as painful, he perceives as amusing.
What many consider meaningless, Antonio Banuelos considers meaningful. What others regard as frightening, he regards as enlightening. What some perceive as painful, he perceives as amusing. Simply put, the 31-year-old Californian is ‘a fighter’s fighter.’ And if there was ever any doubt, the John Hackleman and Chuck Liddell protégé’s sentiments leading up to his Feb. 5 battle against MMA legend Miguel Angel Torres should set things straight.
“It’s going to be an all-out brawl,” Banuelos said with cheer in his voice of his looming showdown with the former world champ. “15 minutes of fun.”
Against Miguel “I-Dare-You-To-Mock-My-Mullet” Torres?
It’s quite a telling statement, especially since Banuelos, as much as anyone, must be keenly aware of the perilous task he signed up for. He cannot credibly plead ignorance headed into the UFC debut for both men. Himself a lighter weight pioneer, Banuelos (19-6) has been fighting for a decade, a year shy of his silver-tongued adversary. So he’s had plenty of time to witness the lengthy path of devastation and destruction that the iron-willed Mexican-American (Torres) has wrought upon the 135- pound division.
Not long ago, Torres was hailed as one of the sport’s pound-for-pound elite and the numbers behind his rise are Hall of Fame worthy: 37 wins. 31 finishes. Separate win streaks of 19 and 17, almost unheard of in the sport. Banuelos likely appreciates that, inside of the cage, Torres is a relentless punisher. The East Chicago, Indianan possesses the mean streak of Dick Butkus and the mental steel of Michael Jordan. He habitually forces foes to pick their poison: be submitted by a wicked good jiu-jitsu game or repeatedly eat stinging blows generated by a whopping 76-inch reach – the longest in the weight class.
Banuelos’ reach: 63 inches. He is also 5’3”, 6 inches shorter than Torres. But not the least bit concerned.
“Miguel is a great fighter but we worked on a good gameplan,” Banuelos said. “I took his reach into consideration but you’ve got to remember – everybody’s got reach on me so I’m used to it. I have my own style and I know it’s going to match up very well against him.”
Though Torres is obsessed with reclaiming his top dog status, Banuelos has actually been the hotter fighter of late. Torres has won three of his past five bouts while Banuelos is 4-1 over the same span, including a decision victory over recent No. 1 contender Scott Jorgensen (earning both men a Fight of The Night bonus). One other statistic jumps out in this contest. Torres and Banuelos share four common opponents: Charlie Valencia, Manny Tapia, Jeff Bedard and Mike French. Torres is 4-0 against the quartet, while Banuelos fared 1-3. Physically and stylistically, Banuelos resembles Joseph Benavidez and Charlie Valencia, two other hard-cracking wrestlers. The former bloodied and became the only fighter to submit Torres. The latter was abused in the standup realm by Torres and then put away with a choke.
Banuelos hasn’t been submitted in a live fight in eight years. And, for anyone wondering, he feels he’s more Benavidez than Valencia in this matchup.
“It’s a huge fight. This would put me in line for a title shot,” Banuelos said. “I’ve been wanting a title shot for a long time and he’s a former champion so this is a huge steppingstone for me … I’m super-excited. I’ve always wanted to fight at a UFC. Every time I’ve gone and watched a UFC, in the back of my mind I thought, ‘Oh my God I want to fight in front of one of these crowds. This is the coolest thing ever. Now it’s a dream come true so I’m climbing up the walls, I can’t wait for it.”