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The Pocket Rocket's Fast Blasts

Wayne McCullough, UFC - This week, I’ll be taking aim at fighting abroad, how fighters can cope with a late change of opponent, whether a dominant champion like Anderson Silva is good for the UFC and just what is at stake in the Jardine vs Silva fight.

By Wayne ‘The Pocket Rocket’ McCullough

This week, I’ll be taking aim at fighting abroad, how fighters can cope with a late change of opponent, whether a dominant champion like Anderson Silva is good for the UFC and just what is at stake in the Jardine vs Silva fight.

Terry Etim, a talented young fighter from England, travels to Las Vegas this week to fight Rich Clementi at UFC 84. It will be the first time Terry has traveled to fight on such a huge show. How do you think he will deal with the experience? When you first represented Ireland and fought overseas, what was your best and worst experience?

The first time you travel to fight on a big stage it can be a frightening experience if you can’t control your nerves.

My first trip was to the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea. I had won the All-Ireland Senior tournament that year and fought three international bouts, but all at home in Ireland. Even as an experienced amateur fighter at that point in my career, I had never left the country to fight. So as the National Champion my first major competition and first big fight outside of Britain or Ireland was the Olympic Games. You can’t get much bigger than that!

I was a young scared kid back then. I got to the final 16 in my first Olympics It was great experience for me. I went on to win Gold at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand, Bronze that same year in Bombay, India at the World Cup and Silver at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.

I tried my best to stay calm during all of the competitions, but my first international experience definitely paved the way for bigger things in my future.

Clementi is a tough fighter coming off a big win over Sam Stout in UFC 83. He is a solid all-round fighter.

But Terry will be fine in Las Vegas. Just look at the support Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe got from their British fans when they fought in the States. Etim will fit well in the Vegas spotlight.

Michael Bisping has had a change of opponent four weeks before his fight at UFC 85. Chris Leben is out and Jason Day in. How will this affect him mentally and did this ever happen to you? How do you avoid sulking and quickly get prepared for the fight in front of you rather than the fight which has been scrubbed?

I don’t think a change of opponent will affect Michael especially this far out and with his experience. He has time to adjust to the different style Day will bring to the Octagon.

Opponent switches have happened to me many times, more so in the early days of my career.

On one occasion, in my second professional fight back in 1993, I weighed in as did my originally scheduled opponent but then he refused to fight me and the promoter had to find me someone else to fight last minute.

I don’t let it bother me too much because when I was an amateur I’d have no idea who I was fighting until the day before / day of the fight and I had to adjust quickly.

A few years ago, some fans wanted to see dominant UFC champions, fighters who could put together real legacies and dominate their divisions for years and years like Muhammad Ali or Marvin Hagler did in boxing. Now it looks like UFC has such a champion in Anderson Silva, who has already made short work of his top two contenders in Rich Franklin and Dan Henderson. So, dominant champion, good or bad in the UFC?

I think it’s good to have a dominant champion. Silva has so much talent that it looks as though he will dominate everyone he fights but that will make the up and comers hungrier. They will study every move he makes and will want to beat him to claim dominance.

In boxing, some fighters go undefeated and possibly protected for a long time but finally meet their match when they step up in class. Even Ali met his match in Joe Frazier. In present day boxing Floyd Mayweather Jnr and Joe Calzaghe would both be considered dominant forces remaining undefeated and having fought some tough opposition.

Keith Jardine has beaten both Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell in the last 18 months, although he was beaten by Houston Alexander himself. On his night, he can clearly be UFC Champion but against Wanderlei Silva he is arguably one fight away from a title shot. How hard is it not to think of that and concentrate fully on the very dangerous man in front of him?

To me Jardine is the guy who, on a good night, can be a UFC champion, which he proved against Griffin and Liddell. But he can be hurt. Alexander showed that and made short work of him in their fight.

Both Jardine and Silva are coming off fights with Liddell. Jardine won but Silva lost.

The winner between these two fighters should get a title shot. Jardine knows he must be the favourite to get a title shot going into this fight but he has to be very careful at all times because of how Silva fights, staying in your face and pressing forward.

This should be Jardine’s biggest night if he keeps his head clear and gets the win.

Flipside: Silva goes into fight with Jardine as a great fighter but one who is 0-3 in his last three fights. Should he fight desperate and just let his natural aggression take over like in his heyday, or will the pressure of not losing almost force him to fight less aggressively?

Silva needs a win coming off three losses. But I think he always fights with an intense aggression so I’m not really expecting anything different in this fight from the “Axe Murderer”.

A long-time MMA fan, Wayne McCullough is a world class boxer, writer and broadcaster with impeccable credentials. As an amateur boxer representing his native Northern Ireland, McCullough’s all guns blazing style took his to a gold medal in the 1990 World Amateur Championships and a silver medal at the Barcelona Olympics two years later. After settling in Las Vegas with his wife and daughter, McCullough turned professional and won the WBC bantamweight championship in 1995. He never lost the title in the ring and went on to have classic battles with the likes of Prince Naseem Hamed and Erik Morales.