UFC: Mario Balotelli needs to take a look at ‘Shotgun’
As UFC 149 leaves UFC President Dana White “embarrassed” we look back at a curious Calgary card, speak with rising UK scrapper Jason Young and ask whether Mario Balotelli should take a look at “Shotgun” before ditching the life of a premier league superstar…
Firstly, let’s get this straight. On most occasions UFC cards and its fighters deliver in spades. UFC 149 last weekend did not. It was a hugely disappointing event, especially given that it had broken all box office records for the stadium and had featured the much publicised debut of one Hector Lombard. Kongo vs Jordan and Lombard vs Boetsch both flattered to deceive and ultimately left the main event to carry the card. Considering that Barao and Faber were fighting for a title, had put in the hard yards in terms of conditioning and are in essence equally matched a back and forth phone-box slugfest was unlikely and so it turned out. They delivered a tactically fascinating main event but their efforts weren’t warmly received by a Canadian crowd clearly underwhelmed by the preceding main card bouts.
One man who did stand out from the crowd in the great white north last weekend was Matt Riddle. I’ve watched more than a few UFC bouts but I’ve rarely seen anyone with the contagious enthusiasm of Riddle. “Deep Waters” was awarded submission of the night for a well executed arm triangle choke but his overall performance, full of energy and no little skill was even more impressive. He allowed opponent Chris Clements off the hook on numerous occasions merely to prolong the slugfest. Riddle got the crowed pumped in the first televised fight of the night and it was refreshing to see a fighter forget about lay and pray or stifling, stalling clinch work and pursue a crowd pleasing style. It may not have been a wise course of action as Clements did in spurts demonstrate his tutoring at the hands of the late great Sean Thompson but eventually Riddle secured the win. For UFC matchmaker Joe Silva Riddle must be a breath of fresh air, someone you can hang your hat on to deliver on the main card and engage the crowd. He has since called out our own Dan “The Outlaw” Hardy, who has in turn questioned the sense of taking the match up. Be careful what you wish for Matt! Dana White promised that he would make the fight at the post event presser… watch this space.
Cheick Kongo may have won his battle of attrition with Shawn Jordan in Calgary but how far up the heavyweight ladder it propels him is highly questionable. Jordan offered little in the clinch against the six year UFC vet and Kongo should really be able to finish such fights if he is indeed to be considered a top contender (as he stated leading up to the bout). At 27 years old and training under the tutelage of Greg Jackosn Jordan should improve with the loss and will now know what it takes to break into the upper echelons of the heavyweight division.
Mario Balotelli was asked this week which other sport apart from football he would like to “play”. The imposing Italian star of the recent European Championships suggested MMA as his preferred choice… interesting. Perhaps Super Mario should have a chat with Lewisham’s “Shotgun” Young or Dan Hardy before he swaps millionaires row for the Octagon.
As an athlete Balotelli is impressive. In a similar vein to a Mark Hughes or latterly Didier Drogba in their prime, he uses his physicality well in the final third. Whether his athletic attributes would translate well to the Octagon is a moot point. At a mere 21 years old time is certainly on his side should he have a yearning to stride into combat’s ultimate crucible. One man who knows about the pressures of stepping into the Octagon at a young age is British featherweight Jason “Shotgun” Young.
I recently interviewed Young and came away with the impression that this guy really could go on to big things in the UFC. The reason is his attitude; unassuming, dedicated and most of all determined Young is a prime example of the new breed of UK mixed martial artist, who are constantly rounding out their game.
Young usually trains at American Top Team in the states but has decided to base his camp for his next UFC assignment at Team Titan and also at the Semtex gym. Young fights taekwondo exponent Robbie Peralta at UFC Nottingham in September and has been working his BJJ with Jude Samuel in preparation for the bout. Following his first UFC win last time out over Eric Wisely, Young is eyeing up not only a win but a decisive finish in front of his fellow countrymen
“I’ve went to three decisions in my UFC career. Last time I got the win and now I just want the finish, for the fans. I want to put on a show”.
When asked about the challenge which Peralta poses he confidently stated
“I’m more well rounded than him. He hasn’t fought the level of guys I have. Wherever it goes I’m going to come out on top. Whilst I’m from a striking background I’m rolling with high level BJJ fighters everyday”
When asked about fighting his first UFC bout on English soil Young’s demeanour changed notably
“I’m really excited about fighting in front of the English fans. It really is an honour. I want to show them what I can do”
Young pointed to the work ethic of close friend and training partner Brad “One Punch” Pickett as being an inspiration to him. What struck me most about Young was how quietly spoken he was. He knows he has a tough night ahead of him in Nottingham come September. A steely determination becomes patently clear once you spend a few minutes in the company of this promising up and comer. If Mario really does decide upon a career in the cage maybe he should swing by and have a chat with Young before making the jump from fight fan to UFC fighter.
Join us here next week as we preview the “Shogun versus Vera” card. Meanwhile check out my Betfair column by clicking here where I profile one of the UFC’s most fascinating underachievers ahead of a must win bout…
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