Talking to Michael Bisping about the “win one, lose one” pattern in his results prior to his fight with Thales Leites last week in Scotland, the longtime middleweight contender offered a thought that shows just how quickly perceptions of performances can change in this sport.
“If I win this fight, I’ve won four out of my last six, so when you put it like that it doesn’t sound that bad, (especially) when you consider the level of competition I’ve been facing,” “The Count,” who collected a split decision win over the durable Brazilian this past Saturday to put himself on a two-fight winning streak heading into his next bout, laughed.
Team Alpha Male’s Danny Castillo is in a comparable position heading into his UFC on FOX meeting with veteran Jim Miller on Saturday. While his record shows consecutive setbacks and losses in three of his last four outings, the simplicity of saying whether he won or lost doesn’t do justice to the complexity of what transpires inside the UFC cage.
If things break his way in a couple different fights, Castillo could have been on a nine-fight winning streak heading into his bout with Paul Felder at UFC 182. He dropped current contender Michael Johnson in the opening round of their fight before “The Menace” returned the favor and finished the bout a minute into the second stanza.
A different referee may have stopped his fight with Edson Barboza in December 2013 when Castillo had the Brazilian stumbling around the cage. Somehow two officials failed to award him 10-8 scores for his dominance leading to Barboza squeaking out a questionable majority decision win.
Against surging lightweight Tony Ferguson – who picked up a dominant win over veteran Josh Thomson last week to likely punch his ticket to the Top 10 – Castillo controlled the action on the canvas, but came away on the wrong side of a split decision.
“A record is a record; there is no asterisk,” Castillo offers, refusing to make excuses or try to rationalize his results. “I feel like I’m one of the best fighters in the world, but for whatever reason, I haven’t been able to put it all together.
“This last fight, I just got caught,” he says of his bout with Felder, which ended suddenly in the second round when the Philadelphia-based lightweight connected with a spinning backfist that ended Castillo’s night. “It was just one of those bad situations, but I know how that is because I’ve been caught before in the past and ran off a win streak.
“Right now, the matches that I’m getting are with the top guys in the world. I’ve already fought – unsuccessfully – (Donald) Cerrone, (Anthony) Pettis, Michael Johnson, (Edson) Barboza, Tony Ferguson; I fought those guys and had them hurt. If I have a really bright performance against Jim Miller, I’m back in it.
“Not to say that I’m back in the mix for making a run for a title, but my name will be relevant again.”
Having logged 20 fights under the Zuffa umbrella over the last seven years – eight in the WEC and 12 more inside the Octagon – Castillo has already endured the ebb and flow that comes with competing on the biggest stage in the sport.
He’s put together winning streaks after being finished and rebuilt lost momentum when a fight just didn’t go his way, all the while continuing to develop as a fighter and press forward, undeterred.
“I feel like I’m still adding tools to my game,” says Castillo, who made a pair of trips to Colorado to work with striking coach Duane “Bang” Ludwig in advance of Saturday’s bout – one when he was scheduled to fight Rustam Khabilov and another when Visa issues forced the UFC to replace the Dagestani grappler with Miller, a hard-nosed grinder who, like Castillo, has faced a who’s who in the UFC lightweight division.
“I haven’t been stagnant. I’m stronger than ever. My jiu-jitsu is the best it’s ever been. I continue to grow and that’s why I’ve been around so long. The record’s not the best, but I’m competing with these people and I feel like on any given day, I can beat them.
“It’s frustrating for me, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, which is a big win over Jim Miller,” he adds of his recent struggles. “I had a knockout of Charlie Brenneman – not the toughest guy in the UFC – but a highlight knockout that had everybody talking. That’s the nature of the sport and I know that because I’ve been in the big show for eight years.”
He also looks to the top of the welterweight division for an added reminder of how quickly fortunes can change inside the cage with a couple strong performances in big spots.
“You see it in some of the best fighters in the world – look at Robbie Lawler,” Castillo posits, pointing to the current welterweight champ who was largely written off following his uninspiring eight-fight tour of duty with Strikeforce. “For a while, no one was talking about him, really, but then he starts winning a couple fights, he’s having these big fights and he’s back in it. But for a while, he was on a losing streak.”
While he’s not predicting a sudden surge to the top of the lightweight division or positioning himself as “The Next Robbie Lawler,” Castillo knows that all it takes is one fight to shift momentum back in your favor and get you pointed in the right direction and that’s exactly what he hopes to achieve when he shares the cage with Miller on Saturday night.
“In this sport, your record is definitely something important, but at the level we’re at as professional fighters, I feel like I can beat any of those guys in the Top 10. I feel like I deserve to be up there, but unfortunately I’ve had some really bad outcomes in those fights. I just need to stay focused on my next opponent, get the finish and I’ll be right there again.”