Andrey Koreshkov believes it was a mental lapse that led to the second loss of his professional mixed martial arts career.
After capturing the Bellator welterweight title with a decision win over Douglas Lima and then defending it with a surprisingly dominant verdict against Benson Henderson, Koreshkov succumbed to Lima via third-round KO in their rematch on Nov. 10. After two competitive rounds, Koreshkov swarmed for the finish after appearing to catch Lima with a right hook. However, that aggression left him open, and Lima dropped “The Spartan” with a counter left hand for an emphatic victory at the 1:21 mark of the frame.
“Physically I was ready for both fights. There was no real difference in my physical condition for the first fight and the second fight [with Lima]. The big difference is that in the second fight I kind of allowed my emotions to take over,” Koreshkov told Sherdog.com. “I got way too creative inside the cage. I stepped away from the game plan that we had. Before that, I was winning the whole fight because I was sticking to the game plan. Then I got over excited and I tried to finish him. That was not part of the plan. That’s exactly where I missed a punch that I didn’t see and it cost me.”
Koreshkov will return to action against Chidi Njokuani in the Bellator 182 headliner on Aug. 25 at Turning Stone Casino in Verona, N.Y. The evening’s main card will be televised on Spike beginning at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT.
Njokuani, 28, is unbeaten in his last nine bouts, including four triumphs under the Bellator MMA banner. The Las Vegas native presents some challenges that Koreshkov hasn’t faced in terms of reach and length. Still, the Russian isn’t overly impressed with his opponent.
“Style wise, I’ve fought strikers before. The difference is he’s taller than anybody I’ve ever faced,” he said. “He’s got the longer reach….I think I’ve faced tougher strikers.”
With a win, Koreshkov would presumably jump right back into the welterweight contender’s queue. However, he would still have to wait his turn behind former UFC title challenger Rory MacDonald, who laid claim to the No. 1 contender’s spot with a win over Paul Daley earlier this year.
The addition of MacDonald is the most prominent example of the growth of Bellator’s welterweight division in recent years. The California-based promotion has been quite active on the free agent market, and the 170-pound weight class has been one of the biggest beneficiaries.
“I think the level of the division is comparable to the highest in the sport,” Koreshkov said. “I’m very glad about that…It’s a great opportunity for everyone.”
That talent was evident during Bellator’s pay-per-view event in New York on June 24, when Lima defeated the recently-signed Lorenz Larkin in his first title defense since vanquishing Koreshkov. Despite Larkin’s credentials in the UFC and Strikeforce, Koreshkov was not surprised by the outcome.
“No surprises there. He fought Larkin the same way he always fights,” Koreshkov said. “As I expected, he beat Larkin. I expected Douglas Lima to win.”
Because his resume already contains a world title and a gaudy 19-2 career record, it can be easy to forget that Koreshkov will turn just 27 years old two days before his fight with Njokuani. The best could very well be yet to come for the Rusfighters Sport Club member. He is already focused on correcting the mistakes of the past.
“How can I improve myself? Mostly by experience. By experience, I mean not to make mistakes like I did against my last opponent, Douglas Lima,” he said. “Just keep training and be focused, stick to the game plan and I think that will allow to progress to get where I want to get: To be the best fighter in the world.”