Ovince St. Preux may have shown up to his Dec. 17 Strikeforce meeting with ex-champion Gegard Mousasi, but that doesn’t mean he showed his best.
Fifteen minutes after his combat with Mousasi had begun, ‘OSP’ watched as his highly-regarded foe’s hand was hoisted by referee Steven Davis. St. Preux had at once been served with both the toughest test of his career and his first in-cage setback since 2009.
The light heavyweight now returns to the cage on Saturday to take on T.J. Cook at “Rousey vs. Kaufman.” Though his unanimous decision defeat to Mousasi came over six months ago, the prospect says he will carry with him the lessons learned from that loss when he faces Cook at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, Calif.
“I'm better than I thought I was. I was more afraid of the mystique of Mousasi than Mousasi himself. I was fighting the guy in my head -- the K-1 star, the young legend, the Strikeforce light heavyweight champ. I wasn't fighting the other guy in the cage until the third round,” St. Preux recently told Sherdog.com. “I regret not fighting to my potential, but would I change anything? Absolutely not. I learned so much from that fight that will carry me to bigger and better things. I'll give up one [win] to get the experience that will earn me dozens.”
During that main card clash at “Melendez vs. Masvidal,” St. Preux spent most of the first two rounds on his back before engineering a surge of offense in the final frame. With three rounds of competition against a world-class light heavyweight now under his belt, St. Preux believes that were he and Mousasi to cross paths again, a different story would be told in the cage.
“Mousasi didn't beat me on my feet. He didn't land any significant strikes while standing up. He landed some good punches on the ground in the first, and then it was downhill for him. [He was the one] who pressed the fight to be a grappling match,” said St. Preux. “If you watch [Georges St. Pierre’s first fight with] Matt Hughes, you'll see a very, very bad ‘GSP.’ Then watch [the rematch, and you see a] totally different ‘GSP.’ It’s the same with me.”
St. Preux says he has used the defeat both as motivation to improve his skills and as a means of increasing his confidence in his abilities when under the bright lights.
“If anything, [the loss] made me hungrier. I came out of the Mousasi fight without a scratch, and his face looked like hamburger, so what am I waiting for?” St. Preux said. “There isn't a magic moment [when you know] you're good. No one ever tells you you're elite. You just become good, and then you have to trust your training. I went back to work. I had a pretty long layoff, so I learned lots of new tricks.”
The light heavyweight says that his newly acquired knowledge will be on full display and unmistakably evident when he steps into the cage on Saturday night. St. Preux can even visualize the means by which he will finish the fight.
“I plan on putting on a clinic. I've got more power in my striking, [and] I'd like to show that off. If T.J. doesn't break immediately, then you'll see some technical development,” said St. Preux. “If he’s still standing after I pepper him with a 100 different strikes from 100 different angles, expect a brutal takedown, some nasty ground-and-pound and then a new signature submission. I'm gonna do so much work in this fight that Strikeforce will have to implement [post-fight] bonuses immediately and then promptly give them all to me.”
Exactly what that signature submission entails is still a mystery, but St. Preux has made it crystal clear that he has taken his preparation for this contest quite seriously. One might think that after facing a former two-organization champion like Mousasi that St. Preux could feel disappointed in fighting an opponent without the same level of name recognition, but the former University of Tennessee linebacker has taken the exact opposite stance.
“T.J. is a tough dude. No one gets to this level without being good, but this is definitely my fight to lose. In boxing, they say to treat a bum like a bum, and that's what I plan on doing,” said St. Preux. “I plan on putting together a pyrotechnic display of MMA shock-and-awe. If you only watch one fight on this card, watch mine, because tomorrow everyone will be talking about the new move that I invented.”
Should St. Preux follow through on his prediction and earn a victory over Cook, the 29-year-old has no plans of slowing down. In fact, if “OSP” has his way, Strikeforce fans will see him competing for the light heavyweight championship on Showtime this winter.
“Give me anyone. Please give me Mousasi again; let me wreck him. Then we can immediately schedule the rubber match for like a week later, and I'll whip him again. At that point, they can just hand me the belt, and I'll be a benevolent ruler watching over my light heavyweight kingdom,” St. Preux said. “I'm tired of all this talk about what to do with the light heavy weight division -- I'm what to do with the division. I'm not on drugs. I'm not fragile. I'll fight anyone, anywhere. [Did] anyone else do three televised fights in seven weeks? Book me fights in September and October, [and then] let me fight for the title in November. I'm begging. Give me more fights.”