“I’m definitely faster than the heavyweights and I think I’m still faster than the 205ers, so speed is definitely gonna be a killer. I think I can hit him two punches for every one haymaker he throws, so he’ll definitely have to worry about my speed and agility."
The medical report for Ricardo Romero following his UFC 116 bout with Seth Petruzelli wasn’t pretty: broken jaw, sprained knee, torn pectoral muscle. On the other side of the Octagon, Petruzelli’s outlook was a lot brighter – at least physically, as he just sported a little swelling on his head courtesy of one of his opponent’s elbows.
Emotionally though, it was another story for Florida’s ‘Silverback’.
“I was ready to fight again,” said Petruzelli. “I didn’t have a scratch on me. The side of my head was swelled a little bit from one of the elbows I took, but bodywise I felt great. Mentally, I was pissed off and defeated. He walked away battered, but he got the W and I got the L.”
If you watched all but the finish to the fast-paced bout in Las Vegas this past July, a loss for Petruzelli would have been the last conclusion you arrived at. Sharp with his striking from the opening bell, Petruzelli rattled and rocked Romero repeatedly, with the end almost coming on a number of occasions.
“I swear he had a rubber head,” laughed Petruzelli. “It was just ridiculous. I hit him a couple times and I thought he was out, but then he’d kinda wake up after the next punch. I was definitely surprised, and I think that’s what killed me is trying to go in for the kill so many times and it just tired me out.”
Almost midway through the second round, the resilient Romero put everything together, shook off his earlier troubles, and submitted Petruzelli with an armbar. It was a fight to remember for all the fans watching it, but just a loss to the returning vet, who was making his first UFC appearance in over three years.
“What it comes down to is the W; that’s what matters the most, which is really unfortunate,” said Petruzelli, 14-6 as a pro. “I wish I could just go out there and win a popularity contest based on how exciting the fight would be, because then I could do some crazy ass kicks and put on a really good show and hurt somebody, but who knows if you’ll win every time. I was happy because at least I performed up to my ability as far as my striking. But I was just really disappointed in how tired I got from throwing so many punches and trying to knock him out.”
It was his first loss since 2007, when he was submitted in the second round by Wilson Gouveia. That defeat capped off an initial 0-2 UFC stint for Petruzelli following his stay on season two of The Ultimate Fighter, but after being released, he ripped off four first round finishes, the biggest being his 14 second TKO of the then-unbeaten Kimbo Slice. Nearly two years later, Petruzelli was back in the UFC, but he doesn’t want the Romero fight, or the Kimbo fight for that matter, be what defines him moving forward.
“I just want people to recognize me not as “The Kimbo Killer” like everyone says,” he said. “I want people to know me as a great mixed martial artist. If something God forsaken happens and I get beat right away and I never fight again, I want people to know that I’ve been doing this for a long, long time, and it’s still my passion. I’ve been in martial arts since I was six and I want to be known as a great martial artist, someone who made it his career, did big things with it, and helped other people by teaching them and giving them advice.”
But Petruzelli still has plenty of fight left in him before he makes his walk into the sunset, and given his gutsy effort against Romero, he assumed he would be getting another UFC fight, despite the defeat.
“It was my first time back and my first loss, so I thought I had maybe one ‘get out of jail free’ card, but now it’s down to the wire,” he said. “It’s make it or break it for this one for sure. With the way I performed I wasn’t too afraid of getting cut, but it’s always in the back of your head. You never know.”
His next shot at getting his first UFC win comes on Saturday, November 13th, when he travels to Germany to take on a new addition to the light heavyweight class, Karlos Vemola, who got a rude welcome to the Octagon from Jon Madsen on the same UFC 116 card.
“He just got outwrestled his last fight,” said Petruzelli of Vemola. “It was really, really boring, but that’s what happens when you get outwrestled by a wrestler who just lays on you the whole time. In his fights prior to that, he comes out swinging and then goes for the takedown and just tries to finish, which is great because I’m gonna be trying to do the same thing – I’m gonna come out swinging too. I see him trying to throw one of his crazy haymakers and just going in for the shot, and I’m gonna try to avoid that takedown hard and just work my counterpunching and pick and choose my shots.”
For Petruzelli, a technical striker, Vemola presents an interesting style matchup, simply because the Czech Republic native will throw bombs from all angles to either take you out standing or set up his takedowns. And while you would think that potshotting such a wild puncher is an optimal scenario, Petruzelli disagrees.
“I’d way rather have a technical fighter,” he said. “You shouldn’t be getting hit with wild shots like that, and the only time you do get hit with something like that is if you’re tired. You’re the second or third round in, and you’re just getting lazy or tired, and maybe you see it coming, but then your mind and your body doesn’t make that connection as fast as it would, and you end up getting hit by something you shouldn’t. That’s what I don’t want to happen in this fight. I’m gonna be on my toes, circling the entire fight and looking for that haymaker because in every single one of his fights, he throws it.”
Against Madsen, Vemola came up empty, but in his previous eight pro fights (all first round wins), he connected more often than not. But as Petruzelli points out, with Vemola’s move south to light heavyweight, a whole new array of potential problems can crop up.
“Obviously the speed is something you have to deal with,” he said. “I’m definitely faster than the heavyweights and I think I’m still faster than the 205ers, so speed is definitely gonna be a killer. I think I can hit him two punches for every one haymaker he throws, so he’ll definitely have to worry about my speed and agility. A lot of the guys he’s fought prior to the UFC kinda just stood in front of him with this freight train coming and got mauled over, and I’m not gonna do that. I’m gonna be circling with my speed and my footwork and hopefully that’s gonna give him trouble.”
And give Seth Petruzelli a Sunday morning where he’s not only unmarked, but victorious.