James Vick’s career has been a slow, injury-plagued journey. All of a sudden it’s picked up steam and has more momentum than ever before after the undefeated Texan got an email from UFC matchmaker Joe Silva just days after his win at UFC 197 to fight at UFC 199.
After fighting just five times in a little less than three years, Vick now has his second bout in six weeks. Better yet, it’s against 10th-ranked lightweight Beneil Dariush, giving Vick the opportunity of a lifetime.
“I believe I should be farther in my career but the injuries have really plagued me,” Vick said. “I would be dumb not to take this fight. There’s nothing but blue skies in front of this win. This is life changing to get in the Top 10.”
Currently at 9-0 (5-0 in the UFC) a win over Dariush – combined with his first-round submission win over up-and-comer Jake Matthews – gives Vick a shot to crack the rankings.
The moment is equally as big for Dariush, who suffered his first loss since April 2014 when he fell to Michael Chiesa in Tampa. Dariush was riding a five-fight win streak and a win or two away from a title shot.
“I was surprised too (that Dariush lost), I thought Beneil was better on ground,” Vick said. “He made a tactical error - he was dominating on the feet and I don’t know why he went for the takedowns. He started shooting desperation takedowns for no reason so I think it was a bad game plan.”
The error dropped Dariush to No. 10 in the ranks and reset his win streak. Dariush didn’t say he made an error by going for the takedowns but admitted he had a lack of focus compared to Chiesa, who made better adjustments. After all, Dariush is still young in the fight game.
He entered the UFC with just six pro fights and what’s most important to him now is gaining knowledge and experience to help him in the future. Dariush should gain plenty of experience Saturday, as Vick is a unique lightweight. Standing at 6-foot-3, Vick holds a four-inch reach advantage and put on a striking clinic in his last fight.
“I’m going to be out striking him on the feet. It’ll cost him and he’ll gas himself out,” Vick said. “Of course he’s going to go for takedowns because his weapons on the feet are limited.”
Dariush said he’s not shying away and is not afraid of the standup. If he’s able to get it to the ground it may be the advantage that could change the fight.
Jon Gagnon is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jgagnonUFC