All eyes will be on the lightweight bout between Devonte Smith and Justin Jaynes this Saturday, not just because it figures to be an exciting matchup, but because Smith is coming off a long layoff that was preceded by his first UFC loss to Khama Worthy.
So, will Jaynes be looking to put some doubt in Smith’s mind immediately at the UFC APEX?
“Honestly, I don't go that deep into the psychology aspect of it,” Jaynes laughs. “I'll tell you my game plan and it's the same game plan I have every time. I'm gonna hit him in the face harder than he hits me in the face, and hopefully he falls down and hopefully I don't. That's it. Simple game plan. I don't want to over complicate things. I want him to know that I'm not afraid of his power. I'm coming forward and I'm head hunting all night.”
That’s Jaynes taking all the romance out of the pre-fight breakdown and getting right down to business. It’s what he does on fight night, as well, something to be expected after 22 pro fights. Having a little Michigan in his DNA doesn’t hurt, either, so despite stepping in on short notice to face one of the top prospects in the 155-pound weight class, he was in a great mood as fight week began on Monday.
“Hey man, you know what?” he asked. “It's my job. I couldn't be more excited. I didn't plan to fight until April, this opportunity crossed my desk over the weekend and it's my job to show up and knock people out. How can I not be excited about that?”
Well, most of us civilians wouldn’t be jumping for joy about having to cut weight and then face somebody who ended his last four wins via first-round knockout.
“Not only somebody,” Jaynes jumps in, “but we're talking about Devonte Smith with 10 wins, nine by knockout. This guy's gonna be trying to knock my head off. But with that being said, I'm trying to knock his head off, too, so it all works out.”
Jaynes is no salesman, but he’s already doing a marvelous job of selling a fight that doesn’t need to be sold. He agrees.
“The fight sells itself,” he said. “This is gonna be a streetfight. There's no more to it. I look back at my early college years, and we'd go to the bar, get a little rowdy and get into little fights. We didn't have any prep time for that. We show up and we fight and that's it. I'm gonna make this dirty, I'm gonna make it ugly and I'm trying to knock Devonte Smith out in the first round.”
Not many fighters would have jumped up for a fight like this on short-notice on the heels of back-to-back losses, but the 31-year-old Jaynes, who dropped bouts to Gavin Tucker and Gabriel Benitez last year after a spectacular debut win over Frank Camacho, isn’t like everybody else.
“They could have said you're fighting (UFC lightweight champion) Khabib (Nurmagomedov) this weekend and I would have said 'Hell yeah,' put my beer down and showed up,” he said. “I don't turn down anything if you haven't noticed. (Laughs) I'm a fighter, I'm a dog, I fight, and that's all there is to it.”
But there is a big question to be asked of “The Guitar Hero,” and that’s what Justin Jaynes would look like with a full training camp?
“Justin Jaynes looks like something you haven't seen before,” he said. “Justin Jaynes can compete with anybody at featherweight or lightweight with a full camp. I keep getting these short notice fights and I'm still competing with these guys.”
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He is. After halting Camacho in 41 seconds, he went back and forth with Tucker before getting submitted in the third, and as he admits, his ego got the better of him against Benitez.
“When I heard how good of a striker he was and how good of a kicker he was, I thought to myself, I'm a good striker, too,” Jaynes recalls. “So instead of trying to implement MMA, I said I'm gonna beat this guy at his best game. And I felt I was doing relatively well, but hat’s off to him, what an incredible performance and what an incredible read. He read that overhand right and took my soul with that knee. But I jumped right back up and shook the man's hand. Great dude, great family, and great fighter. And on to the next, let's go."
UFC Vegas 3: Justin Jaynes def Camacho by TKO
UFC Vegas 3: Justin Jaynes def Camacho by TKO
So why not say “no” once in a while? After the fight with Benitez in December, Jaynes planned on returning in April, but when Smith needed an opponent and the phone rang, he picked it up.
“It's one of those things where I wanted the notice, but I feel like a drug addict,” he laughs. “I want to take some time off, but someone offers it to me and I'm like, let's go. I'm addicted to fighting, I'm addicted to the adrenaline, I'm addicted to competition. We got an opportunity to fight on the biggest stage in the world against some of the best fighters in the world, and what an opportunity for me to go up against another slugger with a long, rangy style, and see what I can do. And hopefully, we get a little extra cheddar at the end of the night.”
Hall of fame boxing trainer and manager Cus D’Amato famously said, “People who are born round don’t die square.” Justin Jaynes is who he is, and he’s not ashamed of any of it.
“I'm very happy that I've been able to show that when I show up, I'm gonna blow up,” he said. “I'm swinging leather, I'm hurting people and I'm not afraid to get hurt. I want people excited to watch me fight whether I win or lose.”
As for an April return…
“You might see me before that.”