Cal­gary feather­weight Ha­keem Da­wodu looks for sec­ond straight UFC win

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS - Neil DAVIDSON The Cana­dian Press

Af­ter last­ing just 39 sec­onds in his UFC de­but, Cal­gary feather­weight (Mean) Ha­keem Da­wodu bounced back with a unan­i­mous de­ci­sion in July in his home­town.

“More to come,” said Da­wodu, who looks to make it back-to-back wins when he takes on Amer­i­can Kyle (Crash) Bochniak (8-3-0) on the un­der­card of UFC 231 on Satur­day night.

“I feel like I’m back on track. My last three fights I was fight­ing with in­juries. This fight I’m nice and healthy. I feel like I’m back to my reg­u­lar self.”

Scot­land’s Danny Henry handed Da­wodu his first loss in March in Lon­don, felling him with a right to the chin and then latch­ing on a guil­lo­tine choke that ul­ti­mately left Da­wodu un­con­scious. The fight fea­tured just five sig­nif­i­cant strikes, ac­cord­ing to Fightmet­ric.

Four months later, a dif­fer­ent Da­wodu (8-1-1) won a unan­i­mous de­ci­sion over Austin Ar­nett. Da­wodu, who got a stand­ing ova­tion from the Cal­gary crowd, pun­ished the Amer­i­can with leg kicks and had a 75-23 ad­van­tage in sig­nif­i­cant strikes.

Both Da­wodu and Bochniak credit martial arts for turn­ing their lives around.

Da­wodu, 27, had stud­ied taek­wondo, wrestling and box­ing grow­ing up. But he started tak­ing martial arts se­ri­ously to get out of house ar­rest as a teenager for some ju­ve­nile mis­steps.

Af­ter he kept fail­ing to com­plete the anger man­age­ment course that was his way out of house ar­rest — “be­cause I didn’t re­ally like it” — his pro­ba­tion of­fi­cer of­fered him an al­ter­na­tive.

“She was like ‘You know, you don’t look like a bad kid, You just look like you do bad things.’ So she rec­om­mended that I start into martial arts and she could write off the martial arts as anger man­age­ment.”

The plan worked and Da­wodu found an out­let — and three months later his first fight. To­day he still trains at the same gym — Mike Miles Muaythai & Kick­box­ing.

“It re­ally did change my life around,” he said. “Grow­ing up, see­ing how my other friends turned out, I real­ized I made the right de­ci­sion.”

He went 42-5 as an ama­teur kick­boxer be­fore turn­ing pro. He went 9-0 and won the WMC In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal wel­ter­weight world cham­pi­onship.

Only earn­ing $5,000 a fight, he changed di­rec­tion af­ter watch­ing UFC bouts.

“I was like I’m just as good as some of these guys, if not bet­ter. I’ve just got to learn my ground game. And these guys are get­ting paid 30 grand a fight.”

He had his first pro MMA fight in Fe­bru­ary 2014 and earned a UFC con­tract af­ter win­ning his first eight bouts.

He says he has worked hard on his grap­pling skills, but didn’t need to use them against Ar­nett.

“I like to stand and bang. That’s my style ... I like ex­cit­ing fights,” he ex­plained.

Bochniak, 31, was a high school dropout who ended up spend­ing time in jail for what he called “stupid, petty charges” one sum­mer. At 22, he de­cided to clean up his act. He went to weld­ing school and start­ing train­ing at a Bos­ton gym.

He had his first ama­teur bout in 2011 and turned pro in Jan­uary 2014, mak­ing it to the UFC af­ter win­ning his first six fights. He has gone 2-3 in the UFC, al­ter­nat­ing wins and losses, drop­ping a unan­i­mous de­ci­sion to Zabit Magomed­sharipov last time out in April.

“Tough guy,” Da­wodu said. “He’s got good car­dio. He’s a brawler. But I’ve got good car­dio. I’m tough, I’ve got all the skills in the world and I’ve got a lot more va­ri­ety of at­tacks that I can hit him we than he can with me.

“So he’s tough but he’s just go­ing to be in there tak­ing a beat­ing.”

Bochniak also has Cana­dian ties, train­ing at the renowned Tris­tar Gym in Mon­treal.

Da­wodu is the lone Cana­dian on the main card. Max (Blessed) Hol­loway de­fends his feather­weight ti­tle against No. 1 con­tender Brian (T-city) Ortega in the main event at Sco­tia­bank Arena.

Jim Wells/post­media NET­WORK

Ha­keem Da­wodu de­feated Austin Ar­nett at UFC Fight Night in Cal­gary ear­lier this year. He’ll take on Kyle Bochniak tonight.

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