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Kennedy Nzechukwu of Nigeria reacts after his victory over Danilo Marques of Brazil in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on June 26, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

A New Mindset For Kennedy Nzechukwu

There’s no doubt that Kennedy Nzechukwu has been in some entertaining fights lately. Yet since making his UFC debut back in 2019, the 29-year-old has gone 3-2 and believes that he hasn’t been able to show his full potential inside the Octagon.

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“I’ve been performing way under my level, about 20 percent under what I’m capable of doing,” Nzechukwu told ahead of his bout against Nicolae Negumereanu at UFC 272. “I just need to go out there and perform. It’s kind of sad not being able to perform how you know you can, but those are adjustments.

“Even my wins, just horrifying, for me. The public eye can’t see what I do in the training room, but I just need to perform like I know I can.”

He has been focused on adjustments since his last fight against Da-un Jung, where he was knocked out in the first round. Nzechukwu is locked on turning things around on Saturday night to ensure that he will be the one getting his hand raised.

The adjustments that he has been working on are simple.

“Movements and don’t overthink,” Nzechukwu said. “Just utilizing my movement and not overthinking and that’s what I took away from it. It’s about mindset, performing how you perform in the training room and not overthinking. Just go there and make it home and relax.”

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There was no deep message from his team at Fortis MMA following his loss. Nzechukwu has shown before what he is capable of inside the Octagon; it’s just a matter of putting the pieces together for a complete showing.

Kennedy Nzechukwu KOs Carlos Ulberg | UFC 259
Kennedy Nzechukwu KOs Carlos Ulberg | UFC 259

“They (Fortis MMA) know what I’m capable of, so they just want me to perform,” Nzechukwu said. “Once I perform like I know I can, I’m unbeatable, so I just need to go out there and be myself.”

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Nzechukwu looks to rebound against Romania’s Negumereanu who is on a two-fight winning streak after knocking out Ike Villanueva last October. Negumereanu holds a record of 11-1 with seven wins coming by knockout and three by submission. His lone loss came in his UFC debut against Saparbeg Safarov.

The Nigerian may have a five-inch reach advantage, but he isn’t underestimating the power that Negumereanu has in his hands.

Kennedy Nzechukwu TKOs Marques To Complete Comeback | UFC Fight Night: Gane vs Volkov
Kennedy Nzechukwu TKOs Marques To Complete Comeback | UFC Fight Night: Gane vs Volkov

“Nicolae is a tough guy,” Nzechukwu said. “I don’t think he’s well-rounded, but he’s tough and he throws bombs. My path to victory is just an overwhelming pace and trying to gas him out and take him out. He presents threats, throwing hard punches and marching forward. His will to win is there.”

His ability to use all aspects of the fighting game such as pace, cardio, wrestling and boxing is where Nzechukwu believes that he has the advantage. He believes that he can utilize any one of those skills, and more, at any given moment, which gives him confidence.

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When he watches his opponent’s breathing patterns and notices that they are slowing down, that’s when he speeds up and pushes the pace.  

In two out of his last three fights, the light heavyweight has left with a bonus, and he has the potential to do it again Saturday night. While he acknowledges how exciting his fight with Negumereanu could be, he isn’t focused on the bonus. He just wants to get back in the win column.

“If the bonus comes, it comes; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t, and it’s not the end of the world,” Nzechukwu said. “I know the bonus always matters, but you don’t really have to focus on it. Just focus on you.”

UFC 272: Covington vs Masvidal took place on Saturday, March 5, 2022, live from a sold out T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. See the Final ResultsOfficial Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive all of the action on UFC Fight Pass.