Mark Bocek on UFC 154 Opponent Rafael Dos Anjos: “I Think My Grappling Is Better Than His.”
By Tom Taylor
UFC 154, which goes down from Montreal, Canada, on November 17, marks one of the most anticipated events for MMA of 2012—the return of welterweight great Georges St Pierre. St Pierre will battle Carlos Condit for the welterweight title in the main event, but the exciting matchups at UFC 154 do not end there. In particular, the undercard of the event boasts an anticipated scrap between talented grapplers Mark Bocek and Rafael Dos Anjos. The winner will take a pivotal step up the lightweight ladder, while the loser will remain in flux, floating aimlessly in the deep waters of the division. With his high-stakes matchup with Dos Anjos looming on the horizon, the Canadian Mark Bocek took time out of his training to speak with Full Contact Fighter.
Bocek, who trains at Montreal’s famous Tristar gym, says his camp so far has been fruitful.
“Everything is going well. I’m training really hard. I’m just resting right now, kind of tired, but things are going really well.” Things are made that much more favorable for Bocek by the fact that his upcoming fight will be in his own back yard, which he says is convenient above all else.
“I like it. It’s easier, it’s more convenient, and I’ve done that whole fight the guy in his own back yard thing, and in the end it doesn’t matter. The last fight was in Atlanta, and it really doesn’t matter. But the convenience and being so close to home is really nice. I wish every fight could be thrown in Montreal.” Against an opponent as dangerous as Dos Anjos, Bocek will need all the advantages he can get. While Dos Anjos’s bread and butter is Jiu Jitsu, he has showcased his striking on several occasions, namely in his first round knockout win over George Sotiropoulos. Still, Bocek is undaunted by the notion of a stand up fight with Dos Anjos.
“I feel good [about standing with him]. You know, George [Sotiropoulos] got caught, but anybody can get caught. It’s hard to say how that fight could have gone. Could Dos Anjos have won nine out of ten times? Maybe he could have, maybe he couldn’t have, I don’t know. What I do know is that he’s a tough customer, as all the guys in the weight class are,” he said. “I’m training with a lot of tough guys, and I’m prepared for what he’s got.” Should the fight hit the ground instead, it will be a clash of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belts, but again, Bocek isn’t intimidated by this possibility. In fact, he is quite confidence in his chances in a grappling match with Dos Anjos.
“I think my grappling is better than his. I think he’s good on the ground, but I think my top control is better than his, and If I end up on the bottom I think my bottom game is better than his. I think I’m better at getting up, but he’s pretty well rounded,” he said. “I respect him as an opponent, but I’m doing everything I can to get my arm raised at the end of the night. I’m not planning on losing in Montreal.” His confidence, he says, is due largely to the tutelage of Tristar head trainer, Firas Zahabi.
“There’s a ton of guys [who help me] at Tristar, but the guy who really brings it all together is Firas [Zahabi]. He understands every area really deeply, so he’s not just going to tell me to work on something that he’s more comfortable with because it’s his art or his background, he understands every area fairly well. When I’m cornered in fights I don’t like to have a guy for Muay Thai and a guy for grappling and Jiu Jitsu, it’s too much confusion for me. I like to have one guy who understands everything quite well, and that’s pretty rare in my experience.” Zahabi is often spoken of as one of the top trainers in MMA today, and Bocek believes this reputation is well-deserved.
“I’ve been to a lot of camps, and I would definitely say Firas is ahead of his time.” While the guidance of Zahabi has made Tristar one of the world’s premier gyms, Bocek said its atmosphere has been especially outstanding lately, due to the fact that so many of the gym’s stalwarts are fighting at UFC 154. In addition to himself, Tristar’s Francis Carmont, Ivan Menjivar, John Makdessi, and of course, Georges St Pierre, are all fighting on the card.
“I guess in a word, it’s been intense. Everybody is training really hard, we’re all getting our workouts in, and doing specific sparring done with specific game plans and specific sparring partners for each of our opponents. Sometimes depending on who’s fighting, there might be less guys in the room or more guys in the room, but now it’s pretty much everybody, all the major guys at once. As you might have seen, Georges [St.Pierre] has brought in some guys, and they’re training with everyone, so right now, at the moment, it’s got to be the deepest talent pool I’ve ever seen in one room.” Should his training amongst so many premier athletes pay off with a win over Dos Anjos, Bocek says he’ll still have a difficult time assessing his position in the lightweight division.
“It’s kind of hard to say. I guess it depends on how much crowd appeal you have, and how much people really want to see you fight. So I don’t really look at it like that anymore, I just look at it one fight at a time.” That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have is eye on certain opponents down the road, however.
“I always thought Joe Lauzon would be a good style match for me,” Bocek said. Aside from Lauzon, he says he would jump at the opportunity to rematch the current lightweight champion, Benson Henderson, who beat him by unanimous decision at UFC 129.
“Yeah I would love to [fight Henderson again]. The way things are going, I’m not really sure how far off that is. I guess it’s going to depend how I look against Dos Anjos, because you have so many other guys in this weight class. But the way I’m feeling right now, I feel great in training and I’d love a rematch with Henderson.”Given his experience in the cage with Henderson, Bocek is particularly qualified in offering an assessment of Henderson’s upcoming title defense against Nate Diaz.
“It’s an interesting fight. I would give the edge to Henderson, but not just because I’ve fought him. I’ve never trained with Nate, so I don’t know what Nate feels like, but he’ll have an advantage with his hands and his boxing and his reach. But Henderson’s got an endless gas tank. He’s physically really strong, and I think he’s going to control where the fight takes place. If Diaz wants to bring this to the ground, I don’t see it happening. I don’t see Henderson being submitted in this fight. He’s just one of those guys who you might tap out in training or in a grappling competition but he’s not going to tap to stuff in a fight. I don’t see Nate submitting him,” he said. “I’m thinking Henderson by decision.”
All other matchups aside, when he enters the cage with Dos Anjos at UFC 154, Bocek plans to put on a show for the fans by gunning for the finish from the opening bell.
“I’d like to win by KO in the first round and I’d love to get a first round submission, but it’s not always that easy. With Dos Anjos, I’m expecting a war, and the more prepared guy will win.”