Dustin Hazelett (right): Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
Even before Dustin Hazelett lost to Rick Story in August, he was considering a move down to 155 pounds.
The lanky submission ace had been successful at 170, but the strength difference was catching up. Then Story overpowered him as well, and Hazelett knew it was time to drop to lightweight. He fights Mark Bocek in a lightweight tilt Saturday at UFC 124.
“Even when I fought [Josh] Burkman and even my earlier fights at welterweight, I was getting overpowered,” Hazelett said recently during a “Jordan Breen Show” interview on the Sherdog Radio Network. “I would be able to pull something out, though. I would be able to somehow pull it off, but it’s so much harder than it had to be. … Even the Burkman fight, I ended up winning, but I took a lot of damage in that fight. I felt like I got hit by a truck.”
Hazelett, 24, chose the welterweight division when he began his UFC tenure because he had believed he’d become too big for the lightweight class. That never happened, though. He said he had never cut more than three pounds to compete at 170.
“You can’t get away with that anymore,” Hazelett explained. “Everybody’s getting too good and too big. People are cutting more and more weight.”
While his opponents were cutting weight, Hazelett was trying to keep it on.
“When I was fighting at welterweight, I was eating ridiculous amounts of food trying to bulk up and put on weight and put on muscle. I was basically eating all the time until I was sick,” he said. “I think it was really slowing me down because my body wasn’t functioning as well as it could.”
Now that he’s on a diet to make 155, Hazelett said he has more energy than before. He’ll also have a reach advantage against many of his opponents, including Bocek.
“I know my striking has been a weak point of mine, so I’ve been working on that a lot,” Hazelett said. “I think that in this fight, especially given the reach advantage … I think [that] should push him to force the takedown.”
However, Hazelett considers Bocek a strong grappler. The two black belts could put on a jiu-jitsu clinic, which sounds fine to Hazelett.
“I know he’s a tough opponent and I’ll treat him as such,” he said. “I think it’s a good matchup for me, though, because I’m more of a grappler. … It’s a whole different ballgame when you’re fighting somebody who’s trying to grapple you and not just strike. I’m looking forward to this fight.”
Hazelett is also looking to bounce back from consecutive losses. He believes his UFC 124 bout against Bocek is a must win.
“I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had cut me after my last fight,” Hazelett said. “I had a horrible performance. I’d lost two in a row, which usually gets somebody cut. I don’t think I’ve seen anybody get another fight after losing three in a row without going somewhere and getting some wins and being brought back. I would have to imagine that if I [lose], I’d get cut. It’s definitely a very big motivating factor. I don’t want to go out like that.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 47:10) with Hazelett.