Much of the attention from UFC 124 has centered on welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre and other main card winners, like Jim Miller and Mac Danzig. But those in the Montreal crowd on Dec. 11 saw another impressive performance during the evening’s first preliminary bout between two lightweights, as hometown fighter John Makdessi (8-0) picked apart Pat Audinwood (9-2-1) en route to a unanimous decision win in his UFC debut.
A longtime martial artist that took up Tae Kwon Do at the age of 6, Makdessi’s striking did more than enough to neutralize Audinwood’s very noticeable size advantage.
“To be honest, I’ve fought big guys in kickboxing, but I don’t know how he cuts to 155,” Makdessi said. “At one point, I had to jump just to punch his face.”
Although Makdessi only stands at 5’8,” four inches shorter than Audinwood, he landed spinning back kicks, left hooks, and a whole lot more.
Understandably, Audinwood spent a lot of the fight in retreat mode. But self-preservation usually isn’t crowd-pleasing or fun for the fighter on the other side.
“I was getting a little frustrated,” Makdessi said of Audinwood’s unwillingness at times to engage. “I stood in the middle of the Octagon and he was running away a lot. From what he was saying before the fight, I thought he was going to come in and push the pace.”
Despite the win and Audinwood’s defensive tactics, Makdessi still saw flaws in his performance.
“I like to be calculated with my striking and technical,” he said. “I made some mistakes, actually, and came in after him and almost got caught. I had to remind myself to stay relaxed. But I tried really hard to finish the fight.”
With such polished striking, it’s likely that Makdessi will eventually come up against a strong wrestler looking to take the fight to the ground and keep Makdessi out of his comfort zone. But Makdessi certainly doesn’t look at himself as one-dimensional.
“I’ve trained eight different disciplines,” Makdessi said, with Tae Kwon Do, Karate, kickboxing, boxing, wrestling, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu among them. “So whoever I’m fighting, I’ve got eight different styles I can use against them.”
Not only has Makdessi refined his striking and ground game, but he’s also worked to transition from one to another, even from one striking style to another striking style, with ease.
And to keep from getting frustrated inside the Octagon, Makdessi trains hard from every position possible.
“That’s why I train this hard; I’ll get frustrated sometimes in training, but I’m always learning something,” Makdessi said. “I’ve fought strikers that didn’t want to strike with me. At the end of the day, if they’re going to try to take me down, they’re still going to have to deal with one of my eight disciplines.”
From the sounds of it, getting Makdessi down to the mat isn’t an easy proposition.
“Georges St. Pierre is one of my sparring partners, and he takes me down maybe two out of every five times,” Makdessi said.
Interestingly, Makdessi talks about fighting as a total way of life. It’s a hard life, and he knows that. But he isn’t looking for fame, though he’d like to maximize the time he has in the sport to provide for his family. That’s why he’s hoping the UFC gives him another fight as soon as possible, so he can get back to doing what he does best.
“I’ve been competing for over seven years non-stop,” he said. “As long as, God willing, I’m healthy, I want to fight as much as possible. I’ll maybe take ten days off but then get back to training. Fighting is in my blood … it’s in my heart.”