Everyone loves heavyweights. Why? Because in mixed martial arts and with four-ounce gloves, one swing can end it all.
“That’s a huge reason why,” one of those heavyweights, Shawn Jordan, agrees. “Most people come out and they give that whole argument that ‘they’re not the most athletic guys, they’re not the fastest, they don’t move the best.’ But the heavyweights are the ones everybody pays for because it could be a knockout night for anybody. It doesn’t matter if you’re number 30 or number one in the world – you get caught, you get caught.”
Call it feast or famine, all or nothing, or any other apt phrase that can describe one punch separating you from the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. Jordan, who faces Jared Cannonier this Saturday at UFC 182 in Las Vegas, has been on both sides of the equation, with all but one of his seven UFC bouts ending by knockout. Four times he’s been on the winning end, but in back-to-back bouts against Gabriel Gonzaga and Matt Mitrione in 2013-14, he was on the other side.
Against Mitrione in March, he simply chalks his defeat up to not being the better man that night. As for his bout with Brazil’s “Napao” in October of 2013, he says “The Gonzaga fight, not taking anything away from him, that’s one of those heavyweight deals where we’re so big, you just get caught with something. Yeah, I may need to work on my striking defense – but that was off my straight left and he came over the top of that one. You train enough and it lands one out of a hundred times. But it landed that night.”
Two straight losses in the UFC is never a good thing, but Jordan’s KO victories over Oli Thompson, Mike Russow and Pat Barry probably bought him a little more leeway than most. Still, he looked at his next bout, against Jack May in August, as a must win. And he won it, stopping May in the third round.
“Every fight’s big, especially at this level,” he said. “I dropped two and they were two poor fights on my behalf, but those guys were tough guys. It’s not like they’re just chumps in a bar downtown (Laughs); they’re top 15 guys in the world. But there’s nothing like winning a fight, regardless of who it’s against. Coming back and getting back into the win bracket and getting a step in the right direction again is always great.”
Now he can breathe again, and though some fighters dread getting a January fight where they have to train through the holidays, as a former LSU football player, Jordan is used to working out and practicing while most folks are chowing down on turkey and opening Christmas gifts.
“It is an advantage for me,” he said. “I played at LSU and every year we missed Christmas. We didn’t get to see family, we didn’t get to go home, and that was when you’re younger. I started at 17, 18 years old, and I’m 30 now, so I’m kind of used to it.”
He’s also used to the idea of fighting someone he knows little to nothing about, a problem usually not seen on the UFC level, but one he had back on the local scene. In the unbeaten Cannonier, he’ll largely be going on grainy YouTube footage, but his issue isn’t necessarily about knowing what “Tha Killa Gorilla” does on fight night, but how the newcomer will react when things aren’t going his way.
“It (fighting a newcomer) makes it a little more difficult because you don’t know a lot about him or what he does,” Jordan said. “All in all, in every fight you have to be flexible and be able to deal with adversity, and fighting is fighting, so you have to adjust. But he’s undefeated. This is probably his first real big test, but he doesn’t know that he’s supposed to be losing if he’s getting beat up. (Laughs) He doesn’t know he’s losing; he never lost before.”
Jordan is more than willing to be the first one to put a check mark in Cannonier’s loss column, but it’s nothing personal; he just wants to start 2015 off with a bang, and keep those bangs coming throughout the year.
“For me, a perfect 2015 would be getting back on a winning streak and pointed in the right direction,” he said. “You’re not doing this sport to be number 20; you want to be number one.”
Check out the full UFC 182: Jones vs. Cormier fight card