James Wilks file photo: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
Full of top-notch competition, the UFC’s 170-pound division ranges from champion Georges St. Pierre and contenders like Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch and Dan Hardy to up-and-comers like John Hathaway.
With five wins in his last six fights, James Wilks wants to add his name to the list of the top welterweights in the UFC. He will get a chance to take a step towards doing so when he takes on Claude Patrick at UFC 120 “Bisping vs. Akiyama” on Saturday at the O2 Arena in London. The bout will open the Spike TV tape-delayed broadcast, which airs at 10 p.m. ET.
A solid opponent stands before Wilks, as Patrick has won his last 11 fights. In his promotional debut at UFC 115, he submitted Ricardo Funch in the second round with a guillotine choke. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, Patrick has finished all 12 of his victories by submission, knockout or technical knockout. His only loss came via unanimous decision to UFC veteran Drew McFedries back in June 2002.
“He’s 12-1, so you know he has to be a tough fighter,” said Wilks. “He’s certainly a valid opponent for me. He’s well-rounded but is strong on the ground. However, I don’t think he’s stronger in any one area than I am, so I should be able to stay on my feet or go to the ground with him.”
Wilks conceded that staying away from Patrick’s potent ground will be a major ingredient in his emerging victorious.
“The main thing I have to do is watch his submissions,” he said. “He’s very technical, and I need to stay away from his submissions. If I can do that, I think I can finish him by KO or submission, but if not, I’ll just do what I have to do to grind out a decision.”
The 32-year-old Wilks is coming off a unanimous decision win over Peter Sobotta at UFC 115 in June. The victory served as a strong rebound from his third-round knockout loss at the hands of Matt Brown at UFC 105 seven months prior. Wilks revealed that Brown broke his orbital bone with an elbow in the first round of their bout. He fought through the injury until being stopped.
“One thing I learned [from the loss to Brown] was to not try to cut too much weight the last day before the weigh-in,” said Wilks. “I did a better job of cutting weight [for the Sobotta fight], and I’m right where I need to be weight-wise for this fight, as well.”
The fight with Patrick will be Wilks’ first main card appearance since he submitted DaMarques Johnson to win Season 9 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” Wilks admitted he was thrilled, not only about being on television but about fighting in front of his countrymen.
“It feels good to be on TV,” said Wilks, who holds a black belt in tae kwon do and a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. “I love to fight and I love the sport, but it’s great to be on TV and have the chance to put on a fight for the fans. I fought [in the U.K.] at UFC 105 and was disappointed to lose in front of my home crowd. I’m excited to have the chance to show the fans in the U.K. what I’m made of.”
A victory over Patrick would continue to move Wilks up the welterweight ladder. While he does not have a particular opponent in mind should he win, he does know he wants to fight again soon.
“I don’t know of anybody I’d like to fight next if I win, but if I do get a submission, I’d like to fight a jiu-jitsu guy,” said Wilks. “I’d like to stay active, but it all depends on whether I can come out of this fight healthy. After [the Brown loss], I had to heal up. If I don’t get hurt, I’d definitely like to fight again pretty quickly.”