“I always want to win. I train the same whether it is a main event or I'm the first fight of the night." - Eddie Wineland
Eddie Wineland is not old. Nor is he even slowing down. With this influx of younger and younger talent into the UFC’s lighter weight classes, there seems to be a misconception that a guy having a fight dating back to 2003 on his record must mean he’s ancient. Quite the contrary, it means Wineland is a veteran of cracking skulls and he started doing it when he was even younger than those new recruits are now. And judging by Wineland’s last five fights - he’s getting better at it.
It probably doesn’t help his case that Wineland was the first ever WEC bantamweight champion and won it before most of his current opponents had laced up their first pair of MMA gloves. That’s the danger this Indiana resident presents, as Wineland has all the experience of his 18-7-1 career and the training to go along with it, plus the physical aptitude those who are still in their 20’s always seem to have. After helping blaze a trail for 135ers to the big leagues, Wineland is still looking to fight the best.
“Going into a fight, whether it is the main card or the undercard, it is the same because I always want to go out there and perform,” says Wineland. “I always want to win. I train the same whether it is a main event or I'm the first fight of the night. I'm still fighting top competition and I have to be ready. Every fight I train and prepare as best as I can.”
The UFC has certainly obliged him by pitting Wineland, in his first two Octagon appearances, against Team Alpha Male stars Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez. In March at UFC 128, Wineland made his organizational debut versus Faber in the co-main event. In his second UFC fight, Wineland will battle Faber’s teammate Benavidez on August 14th in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At first glance, many could easily say it’s like Wineland is fighting the same fight twice - a tough one.
“I think Benavidez and Urijah share a lot of similar traits as far as their fight game. With that being said, I think Joseph may be a touch faster, and strength wise I don't think he is going to be as strong as Urijah, but I could be wrong. I think his wrestling is going to be on par with Urijah. His striking, he's got really fast hands and he's unorthodox, so it's almost basically like fighting Urijah.”
Another similarity between Faber and Benavidez is that they’re just excellent fighters. Outside of fighting the weight class’ champion Dominick Cruz, Wineland couldn’t ask for higher ranked opponents, and he deserves them. At UFC 128, Wineland lost two rounds to one in a close fight to Faber who then fought for the belt against Cruz in a close five round bout. Now, Wineland is looking to improve on his Faber performance by beating Benavidez.
“They've got their differences, but I don't think there are a whole lot of differences,” he explains. “They both have that scramble style mentality. You know when you get in a scruff with them they're very good at coming out with the top position, but so am I. I think it's going to make a similar fight as the Urijah fight, but I'm not going to be on my back. I think from the Urijah fight I gained a lot of confidence.”
Funnily enough, Wineland believes he is a better fighter because of Faber, which should spell trouble for the 14-2 Benavidez. “I can wrestle with anyone in the division,” asserts Wineland, who believes he proved he can stop Faber’s takedowns, which gave himself a greater certainty about his wrestling. “I think I surprised myself with how good I was at stopping his takedowns. My takedown defense is top notch and because my takedown defense is so good I should not be afraid to let my hands go.”
Wineland’s major criticism of his fight with Faber was that he fought too conservatively, and he will not make the same mistake twice. “This time it's going to be different and you're going to see hands flying around a lot more,” claims Wineland, believing he spent too much time worrying about Faber’s takedowns and not enough on scoring points of his own. “I'm going to let my hands go. Last time, I think I respected his takedowns too much. He does have some of the best takedowns in the business and for that reason I respected them too much and I didn't let my hands go as much.”
It’s no secret what Wineland wants to do in the cage: “sprawl and brawl”. Wineland is always gunning for the finish with those fists and he does so more often than not with 14 of his 18 wins by KO or submission. Prior to the Faber loss, Wineland had won back-to-back “Knockout of the Night” bonuses against Ken Stone and Will Campuzano. Specifically, Wineland is known for his heavy hands and their devastating consequences when they touch their opponent, like he’s a bantamweight Chuck Liddell.
“I've got good hands. They can always be better. I keep doing what I've been doing. I change it up a little for every opponent, but I still throw the same combos and the same head movement because you can always sharpen that. No matter how good it is, it can always be crisper. For my Campuzano fight, I moved really well, but if I keep doing those movements over and over I'll get better at it. Bruce Lee said ‘I don't fear the man who can throw 10,000 different kicks; I fear the man who’s thrown one kick 10,000 times.’ He's perfected that kick. I'm trying to perfect my movements. Who knows if they'll ever be perfected, but I'm such a perfectionist that it'll probably never be good enough.”
Simply put, Wineland is better with his moneymakers now than he has ever been and that should put some fear in these 135ers, especially Benavidez.
This Sunday at UFC Live, Wineland will get his chance to prove that as he takes on Benavidez in what should be another war for both their esteemed careers. “The only thing I think about is that I have to keep him at distance,” said Wineland, who will stick to his tried and true gameplan of banging it out on the feet. “Obviously, I have a reach. I'm the taller fighter and I've got to keep it where I'm comfortable. If I can make him uncomfortable where I'm comfortable then it's going to be my fight and not his.”
All in all, it’s just another trip to the cage and another opportunity for Wineland to do what he loves to do best: fight. “As sick as it sounds there is such a feeling of punching someone in the face and landing flush on their chin,” expresses Wineland with a scary sincerity. “The feeling you get from that is just something else. Choking someone out is cool, but a solid punch and putting someone out is just a feeling that is unexplainable.” And for Wineland, it’s a feeling that never gets old.