"Three fights in a row is unacceptable. He knows that more than anyone and that urgency will come out in the fight." - Luke Barnatt reveals John Maguire is amped up for his fight with Mitch Clarke
Win or bust. That is the message from team-mate Luke Barnatt for John Maguire ahead of his UFC® 161 showdown with Mitch Clarke, which sees the Brit make his first splash in the organisation’s lightweight division.
Maguire heads into Saturday’s preliminary bout having lost his last two fights, to John Hathaway and Matt Riddle. On both occasions the overriding feeling was that he was punching above his weight, so the weekend’s card in Winnipeg represents the re-launch of his career.
"I was always an undersized welterweight," Maguire recently told Katana MMA. "I fought guys who weren't beating me up, I wasn't getting hurt, I was just being out-sized. At lightweight I can use my natural strength and - if I get my weight cut right - I think I can make a real run."
Prior to those defeats against Hathaway and Riddle, Maguire had won seven on the bounce including wins over Justin Edwards and DaMarques Johnson inside the Octagon, and there is a feeling among his camp that he can become a real contender at 155 lbs. However, few fighters survive the chop if they complete a hat-trick of losses, and team-mate Barnatt – who emerged from season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter® - reveals Maguire is putting his whole career on this fight.
“100 per cent. John knows [he has to win] more than anyone,” Barnatt said. “The guy’s got a fantastic record, he’s 18-5 and he’s been around a while, but if he loses this fight and doesn’t get cut… three fights in a row is unacceptable. He knows that more than anyone and that urgency will come out in the fight.
“He’s fighting for his life. Not only does he have to win, he has to impress because his last two fights have not been impressive. He’s coming to show that at lightweight he can really be world class and be one of the best in the world. He’s not looking to win and stay in the UFC, nobody wants to just stay in the UFC, they want to get to the top and John is definitely one of those people.”
A potential problem for Maguire is the fact he stands opposite a man fuelled by the same motivation. Clarke - who will have the backing of the Canadian support - arrived in the UFC with an undefeated 9-0 record, but lost his first two fights inside the Octagon against John Cholish and Anton Kuivanen.
Like Maguire, the 27-year-old prides himself on his grappling, which has helped him stop six opponents via submission to date. On paper the pair match up both in terms of style and the current stages of their career – albeit with experience favouring Maguire – but Barnatt expects a gulf in class to be evident come fight night.
“Mitch hasn’t won in the UFC yet, he’s 9-2 but he came to the UFC 9-0 so he hasn’t proved himself yet. We always say you’re not a UFC fighter until you’ve won a fight in the UFC.
“John has never been outgunned, he’s always been outsized. His last two fights he fought John Hathaway in what was an awful fight and he fought Matt Riddle. Both are very big welterweights and John was a very small welterweight. Yet still, both of them caused John no damage, they never had him in trouble, he was just fighting at the wrong weight. He’ll prove that by destroying Mitch Clarke.
“At welterweight John was fighting guys who were 6ft 1 or 6ft 2 – big dudes. John’s only 5ft 9, he was always climbing the hill and trying to prove it doesn’t matter how much you weigh. But when you get to the UFC and fight the elite guys, it does matter. A good big guy will always beat a good small guy.
“John is a lot better [than Clarke] as a grappler – he has a clear advantage – and he’ll do whatever he feels necessary at the time. He’s going to go in there, punch him in the face and see what happens. We think John has the fight won everywhere. I really feel like Mitch Clarke is outgunned in this fight –if he makes it out of a round I’ll have a lot more respect for him.”