Kennedy Nzechukwu found himself in a dire predicament in the opening round of his light heavyweight clash with Danilo Marques at UFC Fight Night 190.
The Dana White’s Contender Series alum was taken down almost immediately and then surrendered his back to Marques, who made Nzechukwu wear him like a backpack for the majority of the round. Nzechukwu was able to avoid his opponent’s attempts to lock in a rear-naked choke and make it until the horn. That’s when the tide began to turn.
“I tried to stay calm. At the same time, I knew he was going to burn his legs out, because he was constricting his legs trying to hold on to me,” Nzechukwu said. “I knew it was kind of a dicey situation. I knew I could get him to burn his legs out. It’s not the smartest thing to do – the best thing is to stay out of that position – but I knew he was going to burn his legs out.
“And after the first round, he was limping towards his corner so I knew it was time to push the pace in the second and third round and I got the finish.”
Nzechukwu was taken down again at the outset of Round 2, and he surrendered back control to Marques on the mat. However, the Fortis MMA product returned to his feet and began to tag his adversary with combinations over the second half of the period.
Heading into the third round, Nzechukwu received some pointed advice from his coaches.
“My coaches told me on the third round to push it. Suffer now and enjoy the rest later,” Nzechukwu said. “I just had to suffer and push, push, push .. I had to do what I had to do to get through. He was really exhausted after the first round so I just had to push to break him. We knew we could get that done.”
In addition to what happened in the fight, Nzechukwu had to overcome some difficulties prior to Saturday night.
“I know I had to rally back, but I was so sick during this week with congestion and stuff like that... I tried to flush it out, because it was kind of compromising my cardio, but we kept pushing, because this is a huge opportunity and not a lot of athletes get to showcase their skills on this platform,” he said. “I can’t disrespect that opportunity, I kept pushing. I knew I had what it takes to get through it.”
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