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Monday, Mar 14, 2011

UFC 128: Njokuani Expects “Awesome Battle for the Fans”

By Kelsey Mowatt, photo courtesy Saekson Janjira Muay Thai
While much of the fanfare surrounding this coming Saturday’s UFC 128 card is understandably tied to light-heavyweight champ Mauricio “Shogun” Rua taking on Jon “Bones” Jones, Anthony Njokuani is confident fans will also be talking about his bout with Edson Barboza afterwards. Why? Both lightweights head into the March 19th bout having demonstrated that they are punishing and entertaining strikers, leaving little room to question, as to why UFC officials decided to broadcast the preliminary bout on Spike.
“I wasn’t very familiar with him but I did watch his UFC debut fight,” Njokuani told FCF, while discussing the man who is coming off a TKO stoppage of Mike Lullo in his UFC debut. “I know he’s a phenomenal stand-up fighter, which means the way I am with my stand-up, it’s going to be an awesome battle for the fans.”
Barboza transitioned into MMA having competed extensively in professional Muay Thai Kickboxing, and proceeded to win six straight fights, five by TKO or knockout, before making his aforementioned Octagon debut last November.
“Once I found out I was going to be going up against him I started doing a lot of research,” said the Nigerian born Njokuani. “I watched some of the videos he had on Youtube and my thoughts are he’s a great striker. I’m really excited about this fight; I know it’s going to be a really good show.”
While Barboza’s MMA career to date has clearly benefitted from his extensive kickboxing experience, one can say the same about the 31 year-old Njokuani, who began training in Muay Thai over a decade ago. Of the veteran’s 13 pro wins, eight have come via strikes, including Njokuani’s awe inspiring headkick stoppage of Chris Horodecki at WEC 45.
“People don’t ever really talk about my Muay Thai fights but Muay Thai was my thing when I first got into fighting,” said Njokuani, who has trained his striking extensively with decorated Muay Thai instructor Saekson Janjira. “Muay Thai was my life; I studied it, I trained in it, I did it for about thirteen years and I ended my Muay Thai career at 22-0…people have maybe seen him fight or heard about him and think he’ll have the upper hand, but they might not understand that I was nothing but Muay Thai.”
It will be interesting to see whether reach plays a factor in this Saturday’s bout; Njokuani, who is 6’1, expects to have an advantage over Barboza, who’s listed at 5’11.
“I have the thought in my mind that I’ll be gaining that reach advantage,” Njokuani noted. “I really want to use that to gain the upper hand, use my reach to gain that win.”
Of course, this is mixed-martial-arts, and Njokuani understands that nothing guarantees the bout will strictly be a striking affair.
“Normally that does happen,” said Njokuani, who continues to train his ground game in Las Vegas, under the guidance of accomplished BJJ instructor Sergio Penha. “Eventually I know for a fact that either one of us will try to take the other one down. I know I want it to be a stand-up war but every now and then things change. That’s why I’ve been training in everything and I’ll be ready for it.”
Njokuani likely entrenched an Octagon appearance last November, when he stopped Edward Faaloloto at WEC 52, after incurring back-to-back losses at the hands of Shane Roller and Maciej Jewtuszko. As the WEC closed up shop and merged with the UFC, Njokuani held a 4-3 record with the promotion.
“Once I found out I was transferring over to the UFC it was a dream come true,” said Njokuani. “That’s what I’ve been working for in my career, and for all my work to pay off, I was very proud of myself.”
posted by Full Contact Fighter @ 1:48 pm
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