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Nick Osipczak: Born to Thrill

“I see me stuffing his takedowns, and Soto only getting more and more tired and frustrated. More openings will then present themselves to me and I'll be able to strike with him and knock him out.”

'Slick' Nick Osipczak is man enough to accept the inevitability of defeat. At least, that is, when defeat truly feels like defeat. Since departing season nine of The Ultimate Fighter, England's Osipczak has suffered only one professional loss, and yet it never felt the way he expected it to. The talented welterweight was outwrestled and muffled by American Ricky Story at UFC 112 and, though the bout remained competitive throughout, Osipczak was ultimately frustrated and defeated.  Osipczak left Abu Dhabi that weekend feeling slightly dejected, but mostly confused.

“I was disappointed that I was in a fight like that,” explains Osipczak. “I just didn't agree with the way the fight went. I found the fight boring, and quickly realised Story was only content to lay on top of me and stifle any chance of a fight breaking out. I don't want any of that in my career, so I've now had to learn how stop guys like that trying to lay on top of me for three rounds.

“The loss has definitely been bugging me. To begin with I wasn't quite sure where I'd gone wrong in that Story fight and was a bit confused. I've now realised where I went wrong with Story and I'm looking forward to making the necessary changes and adjustments in my next fight.”

Osipczak's post-fight blues weren't born from a realisation that he was out of his depth or had been shockingly beaten up. He was, instead, finally coming to terms with the fact that mixed martial arts was perhaps even more far-reaching and all-encompassing than he'd originally anticipated. While Osipczak and, for that matter, many other British fighters, love nothing more than an old-fashioned tear-up, the scope of mixed martial arts allows many opponents to fight against their wishes and still conjure victory. Osipczak wasn't beaten by Story in a fight that April night, but he was outscored in a mixed martial arts bout.

“The same thing happened to Paul Kelly in America on Sunday (August 1st), when he lost to Jacob Volkmann,” adds Osipczak. “He actually wrote on his Facebook account and apologised to all his fans, not for losing, but for being involved in a fight like that. He said he'd rather lose than be in a dull fight, and I think most of us feel that way, too. Unfortunately, there are a lot of guys in the UFC who rely on their wrestling to shut people down and grind out a boring decision.

“Even with that in mind, I still thought I'd done enough to beat Story. I knew he'd won the first round quite clearly, I won the second round and, in the third round, although he took me down, I landed a flying knee in the final stages. It all boiled down to whether you think it's better to take a guy down and then get stood up thirty seconds later because you didn't do anything with it, or land a flying knee to someone's face and rock them. I believe fights should be scored on damage, so felt I did enough to edge it.”

Rather than mope around and protest an overhaul of the way mixed martial arts bouts are scored, Osipczak has simply got his head down and worked on his own shortcomings. He's alternated between sessions at Nottingham's Team Rough House and Liverpool's Team Kaobon and, with the Story trauma still fresh on the brain, is beginning to figure out how to survive in 21st century mixed martial arts. No longer able to rely solely on what comes naturally, Osipczak, like so many others, is having to cater for all possible eventualities.

“The main thing I've come to realise is that I need to be prepared to face someone who doesn't want to fight,” explains Nick. “I was surprised by Story and the fact he didn't want to trade with me at all throughout the fight. He was constantly looking to close the distance and take me down. From watching his previous fights, I'd wrongly assumed he was going to swap some strikes and then pick his moment to shoot in on me.

“I've also learned that, rather than wrestle around my striking, I'm now going to strike around my wrestling. I'm going to have a lower base and make it harder for guys to take me down, as I'll be expecting it and will be prepared for it. Wrestling will be at the forefront of my mind, rather than just something I react to. I'm going to shut my opponent down, before doing what I like to do.”

Osipczak gets the chance to put his words and lessons into action on August 28 in Boston, as he meets Greg Soto, another wrestler and grappler, who will no doubt again look to dump the Brit on his backside. Now aware and, in truth, expecting such a scenario to unfold, Osipczak promises to have a surprise in store for his next wrestler.

“I hadn't heard of Greg Soto when the opponent was first given to me,” admits Osipczak. “Obviously I looked him up as soon as I heard the name and discovered he'd fought Matthew Riddle, a guy I'd also fought. So that was interesting. I watched the fight and saw Riddle pretty much dominate Soto throughout, until an illegal up-kick from Soto handed Riddle a disqualification win.

“My immediate thought was, 'Oh, the UFC have been kind to me here'. I saw Soto as someone to just beat up, as he'd lost to a man I'd already beaten. All in all, I'm very pleased with the match-up and he's going to be in for a tough time. I feel sorry for him.”

New Jersey’s Soto is 7-1 in his mixed martial arts career, and suffered his sole loss last time out against Riddle. Meanwhile, Osipczak officially kicked off his UFC career against the same foe last November and couldn't have looked more impressive in grinding down and halting Riddle with seconds to go the third round. The versatile Brit successfully outwrestled a collegiate standout and, unwilling to go to the cards, continued his assault when so many others would have casually rode the victory out.

Despite the ease at which Osipczak stopped Riddle, the calculated Londoner won't be taking Soto lightly on August 28.

“I realise that different styles make different fights and lead to different results,” warns Osipczak. “It's not as simple as I make it sound and I know I can't rely on past form to get me a win. Soto is a wrestler, but Riddle was a better wrestler, and that's why he was able to dominate him. Soto wanted to be on top, but Riddle was too good of a wrestler to let him do that.

“I didn't just look at the result of that fight, I also looked at what Soto was or wasn't able to do from the bottom. Soto's a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, yet he couldn't come close to sweeping Riddle or finding a submission. I'm not a brown belt, but I was able to sweep Riddle and nearly submit him. I can only assume that my ground game might be better than Soto's, as I was able to do stuff from the bottom that he wasn't able to. Soto's probably used to being on top of people, and his top game is presumably a lot better than his bottom game, whereas I've spent a lot of time on my back and have a pretty strong guard.”

Keen to put the record straight and conquer another wrestler, Osipczak, 5-2, couldn't be happier with his latest choice of foe. The 25-year-old will look to take everything he's learned, from victory over Riddle and frustrating defeat against Story, and combine them to make a statement against Soto. For Osipczak, there's no chance of getting burned twice in the same manner.
“My striking is at a much higher level than his is, and I think I'll have a psychological advantages due to the fact Soto has lost to Riddle and is pretty much fighting for his career right now,” says Osipczak. “He'll be 0-2 in the UFC after this fight and will probably be sent packing.

“I see me stuffing his takedowns, and Soto only getting more and more tired and frustrated. More openings will then present themselves to me and I'll be able to strike with him and knock him out.”

Now ready for all possible eventualities, Osipczak predicts only one.