Friday, April 6, 2007

Portland's Haynes is key to UFC 69

By Brad McCray

After shedding the equivalent of a second person in weight, Portland's Josh Haynes is still recognizable by his tell-tale blue Mohawk. Once weighing more than 300 pounds, the mixed martial artist is schedule to fight at 170 pounds on Saturday in UFC 69 from the Toyota Center in Houston.

"This is the right weight for me," he said. "I was too heavy before."

Haynes (9-6, 0-2 UFC), a finalist from "The Ultimate Fighter 3" television show, will fight New York's Luke Cummo (7-4), a finalist from "The Ultimate Fighter 2." Cummo is 1-2 in the UFC, all by decision.

"This is an important fight for both of us," Haynes said. "I think he's in a little worse position than I am, but I still have to win."

The Ultimate Fighting Championships have had other fighters lose similar amounts of weight, but few were as prominent or lost the weight as quickly. On June 24, 2006, Haynes weighed in at 205 pounds for "The Ultimate Fighter 3" finale, but was undersized and flabby. He then cut to 185 pounds for a fight on Oct. 10, 2006. This will be Haynes' first fight at 170.

Haynes said began cutting weight for Saturday's fight in January and was 183 pounds two weeks before the fight.

"I'm on schedule," he said.

At 170, Haynes is intriguing because of his punching power. Also, his stature (5-foot-9) will no longer be a liability. He has shown an uncanny ability to absorb punishment and keep fighting.

"For me, winning is secondary to putting on a good show," he said. "I want to put on something that is fun for people to watch. I could lose every fight as long as it's a good show."

In a two-round loss to Michael Bisping in the TUF finale, Haynes still threw punches while appearing to be out on his feet. Haynes' three-round loss to Rory Singer last October was the best fight on the card, and each fighter reportedly received a $15,000 bonus for their performance.

"After that fight, I realized I should get down to 170," Haynes said. "I'm a name fighter, now and I can always find fights. But I don't want to leave the UFC because I wasn't good enough to make it. I want to make it in the UFC and this is the best weight for me."

TUF GROWS UP: Cast members from "The Ultimate Fighter" will flavor the UFC 69 card. Counting Haynes and Cummo, the card features 11 former TUF fighters.

In the main event, Matt Serra, the TUF4 champion, fights Georges St. Pierre (13-1) for the welterweight title. Serra (15-4) earned the title shot by winning the TUF 4 finale over Chris Lytle.

"Matt feels underestimated by everyone, including me," UFC president Dana White said. "But I said it is a tough fight for Matt when you look at Georges St. Pierre and how dominant he has been."

The most intriguing bout on the undercard features Diego Sanchez (19-0) and Josh Koscheck (10-1), both from TUF 1. Sanchez was the TUF 1 champion, beating Koscheck along the way.

Career-wise, the fight is dangerous for Sanchez. With a win, Sanchez remains in the same position: a top contender awaiting a chance to get into the St. Pierre-Serra-Matt Hughes mix. A loss, however, could drop Sanchez below Koscheck in line for a title shot.

A dose of bad blood adds spark to the bout. Friends on the show, the fighters are posing as enemies now. "We were friends and now he has this jealousy and hate for me," Sanchez said. "We slept in the same room under the same roof. We were homeys."

After the show, things changed.

"Then when we see each other he gives me a smirk and wouldn't look me in the eyes," Sanchez said. "So I confronted him. If it's going to be like that, it's going to be like that."

Koscheck has a history of conflicts with other fighters. He feuded with Portland's Chris Leben during the shooting of TUF 1. Leben now fights at 185 pounds.

"There is no way I could cut down to 170, so it's not going to happen," Leben said. "Maybe if he agreed to meet me halfway, I'd cut off my leg. I would love to fight Josh."

Other fights involving TUF cast members: TUF 3 middleweight champion Kendall Grove (9-3) vs. Alan Belcher (9-2) TUF 2 heavyweight finalist Brad Imes (6-2) vs. Heath Herring (26-12-1) TUF 1's Mike Swick (10-1) vs. Yushin Okami (20-3) TUF 4's Pete Sell (7-3) vs. Thales Leites (9-1) TUF 2's Marcus Davis (15-4) vs. TUF 4's Pete Spratt (16-7)

Swick and Okami are both rising contenders. Imes-Herring could be interesting as well. Imes is still relatively inexperienced, but the former University of Iowa offensive lineman is 6-foot-7 and can take a punch. Herring was brought to the UFC to figure in the heavyweight title mix, but looked miserable in his debut, a unanimous decision loss to Jake O'Brien on Jan. 25.


No comments: