MMA Coach’s Corner: An inside look at Ovince Saint Preux’s win over Ryan Jimmo and upcoming main event with Ryan Bader

Photo by Jack Bratcher for ProMMAnow.com
Top 10 ranked UFC light heavyweight Ovince Saint Preux. Photo by Jack Bratcher for ProMMAnow.com

Well, I know that these blog posts are sporadic at best, but as the world is finding out I’ve been kinda busy in Knoxville. After this weekend’s fights in Vancouver for UFC 174, my student Ovince Saint Preux is now 4-0 in the UFC. All four of those fights have ended due to stoppage, with three of them being emphatic stoppages – KO, Submission KO and TKO. He is currently ranked #10 in the Light Heavyweight division by the UFC and we’re scheduled to fight the #8 ranked Ryan Bader as the main event for Fight Night 47 in Bangor, Maine.

So, I guess you could say, things are going well for us.

Jack asked me to answer a couple questions first, so let’s get to those. I’m sitting here with Ovince and Joey Zonar, KMAA coach and Ovince’s manager, and we’ll go through them as fast as we can.

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Did we ever learn if the win over Jimmo was from the Chicken Wing or from a kick?

Joey: I talked to Jimmo on Sunday after the fight and he told me that he felt the kick to the arm in the second round and that it hurt pretty bad, but when Ovince was in referee position on him and grabbed the wrist for the Chicken Wing, Jimmo felt his arm give way/pop. So Ovince grabbing the wrist and pulling it off the mat made Jimmo carry Ovince’s weight and Jimmo’s own on that hurt forearm and that’s when he started saying his arm was broke.

Eric: Yeah, as much as I wanted the Chicken Wing submission (first attempted Chicken Wing in the UFC EVER!) it was clearly the kick that did it. Ovince tried to rip off Jimmo’s left arm and it was Jimmo’s right forearm that was broke. Shame though, Performance of the Night bonuses are always better.

What was your reaction when you learned you’d be headlining the UFC card in Maine?

Ovince: Well, excited of course. But there’s also a piece of every fighter that wants to get off the training treadmill and relax for a week or two after a fight. However, fighting in the UFC is my dream and being the main event is a dream come true. In my mind, I’m already the champion, so I’m just filling in the blanks that get me to that championship. Beating people ranked ahead of me moves me towards that goal, so I was excited to get the chance to beat someone ranked ahead of me as the main event of a UFC card.

Joey: Ecstatic.

Eric: I think it’s an enormous blessing and very providential. Normally when you get prepped for a 5 round fight you need 8-10 weeks just to prepare for the cardio demands of fighting for half an hour. Since Vince had already spent 6 weeks preparing for a third fight, we already had a great base cardio. We went into our fight and came out relatively unscathed so we knocked off any ring rust. So now we’ve got a great base, are in competition shape physically and mentally and we get the chance to fight a guy out of a gym we’ve been studying for 6 weeks already.

What are your thoughts on Ryan Bader, what he’s done in the UFC and what a win over someone like him would mean?

Ovince: I really wanted this fight. You know, I tried out for The Ultimate Fighter twice and didn’t make it very far in the process. Bader won season 8 of TUF, but I think he only won because I wasn’t on the show. In my mind, this is like the TUF finale and I want to show the world that I’m the Ultimate Fighter.

Eric: Bader has fought a murderer’s row of light heavyweight talent and we’re very excited about what we can accomplish in this fight. Even the fights that Bader has lost he has been very competitive, so a win over him really is a huge statement win for us. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to compete against him and I believe we’ll show the world that the Strikeforce prospect has become a UFC belt contender.

Do you see Bader offering anything you haven’t faced before?

Ovince: Nah, not really. I fought Nik Fekete who is as good, if not better, wrestler. I fought Rodney Wallace in my first pro fight who has really underrated MMA wrestling and was a pro boxer. Bader has a lot more experience in the UFC and he’s been the main event before but he’s never been into the 4th round before… if the fight goes that long it’ll be unexplored territory for both of us

Eric: The real answer to this question is two-fold. First we have to deal with Ryan Bader the actual guy and then we have to deal with the lead-up to fighting Ryan Bader, which we’ve not experienced before.

First, Bader has clearly been working on his striking. You could tell it in his last fight. His movement, his speed, his footwork, his head movement and his feinting really befuddled Feijao who couldn’t figure out how to get his offense started. So it just looked like Feijao was being lethargic, but I think the truth of the matter is that he couldn’t solve the rhythm puzzle that Bader was presenting him with. So, we need to deal with Bader’s new striking acumen and obviously have to deal with his wrestling, which he’s always relied on to really grind guys down. That’s a potent combo that we have to deal with.

Second, I think Bader has a lot of experience and he’s used to doing all the media hype that goes on before a fight. That’s one of the variables we’re not used to doing just yet. After Ovince’s win, the UFC has given Ovince a number of media assignments like coming to the Fan Expo and doing some meet-and-greets which require him to travel. I’m sure when we get to Maine, we’ll have even more media stuff, open workout stuff, interviews, etc. None of this is really anything that Bader is doing that will challenge us, more of what this fight will make challenging because we’re not used to… so sorry if my answer is somewhat circuitous.

Will you spend your entire camp for Bader in Knoxville, or will you travel to work with Brian Stann’s crew or the guys out in Temecula to help you get ready?

Ovince: I’ll do whatever Coach Eric wants me to do for this fight. When I follow his gameplans I always win. So, if Coach wants me to go to Atlanta we’ll go down there. If he wants me to go to Cali, I love it out there. I don’t really care, I just want to win.

Joey: This is one of those issues that really pushes my buttons. People think that Ovince trains at these other camps full time or something. I’ve even heard stupid local coaches say things like “Ovince doesn’t really train at KMAA, he trains at all these other gyms and KMAA just tells everyone he trains there.” The truth is, during an 8-week camp, Ovince will be in class like everyone else for 6½ weeks. He’ll spend 3-5 days sparring in Atlanta or wherever they have guys big enough and skilled enough not to get killed by Ovince and then he’ll spend the last week at the fight location.

So, since Ovince spends literally 8% of his training camp at other gyms people say dumb stuff like Ovince trains somewhere else or that he’s never in town. For the Thiago/Nikita fight we spent 5 days in Atlanta over 9 weeks. For this last fight with Jimmo, we spent 2 days down there — and that was because Ovince was already down there for a wedding.

The guys down in Atlanta and Temecula are AMAZING. They’re so cool and easy to work with and it’s great that they’ve opened their gyms and training schedule to us. I just hate it when anyone detracts from all the hard work we’ve done up here. It gets me all worked up really…

Eric: I wish this text based medium could really convey the amount of laughing out loud that I just did listening to Joey’s rant. There is definitely a kernel of truth to it, but to me it doesn’t really matter what anyone else says. My goal is always to help Ovince be the best he can be – however and wherever that can happen.

In the past, we’ve really needed bigger guys for Ovince, bigger and more highly skilled guys for Ovince to spar with, and we still do to a lesser extent. However, this last fight camp we did entirely in Knoxville. We did bring in Virgil Zwicker for a week from Team Quest Temecula, and Virgil did a great job helping push Ovince. However, we’ve been really blessed to have some bigger guys coming along, guys like Isaac Fine, Nick Eastman, the two Seans and Big Ben McCombs.

I think very highly about those guys down in Atlanta, Coaches like Manu Ntoh and Jucao are really great guys and sparring partners. The sparring partners down there are also great, they have a very welcoming attitude towards us and have always been very kind and gracious. I haven’t ironed out the details 100%, but I’m thinking we’ll be able to do this entire camp in house again. That’s not to say we won’t get some input from those guys, because they’re all great, but we’re really trying to build an Albuquerque in Knoxville if you know what I mean.

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Now that the questions are out of the way, here are my thoughts on the UFC 174 fight with Ryan Jimmo.

Going into this fight we knew that Jimmo’s karate rhythm was going to be problematic. Not many people employ that style so it’s hard to prepare for it. We are very blessed though to have someone like Jason King, who is Jimmo’s height and is also a 4th degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Jason is a 155/170 lb fighter, so he couldn’t do hard sparring rounds with Ovince, but he and Ovince would do round-after-round-after-round of Ovince defending, range controlling, angling and setting up while Jason threw kicks and punches at Ovince. The plus side being since Jason is a lighter weight class he could keep up a much higher pace than any 205’er.

To supplement Jason, we also had Ken Wilson, who was a great Tae Kwon Do player and who has been one of my oldest students. His kicks are RIDICULOUSLY fast and he’s big enough to do some hard sparring rounds with Ovince. Between the two of them you could really see that Ovince wasn’t thrown off by Jimmo’s stance-switching or striking game. Ovince just let Jimmo do Jimmo and Ovince set up his striking perfectly.

While we’re on striking, I want to say this as emphatically as I can: Ovince broke Jimmo’s arm with a kick. It wasn’t luck. It wasn’t an accident. The way that we teach kicking is radically different from everyone else who teaches kicking – because we’re teaching a principle-based idea not just a technique.

Ovince kicks harder than anyone I’ve ever held Thai pads for and I’ve held Thai pads for a lot of big name guys. I say this also because Jimmo’s arm was the second arm Ovince broke with a high kick – the first was a guy named Claudio Godoi who we fought in Washington, D.C. So it wasn’t an accident, it wasn’t luck, it was part of the gameplan to hammer Jimmo with power strikes until he would favor a grappling based attack rather than a striking based attack.

To that end, we’ve really been working and drilling Ovince’s wrestling and his submission game is coming along. One of the things we’re most proud about at KMAA is that we’re not a pure-ist gym. Wrestling, BJJ, Sambo, Dumog – whatever kind of grappling there is, we use it. This hybrid style creates problems for anyone from a more “traditional” approach – pure BJJ or pure Wrestling or what-not.

So, once we got Jimmo down, Ovince hit two Guard passes (one full Guard pass and one half Guard pass, then we mounted, took the backmount (where Ovince set a trap for Jimmo… but Jimmo didn’t take the bait ) and when Jimmo turtled, Vince went right into wrestling mode – leg ride, inside wrist to chicken wing. Those kind of transitions only happen when wrestling and BJJ aren’t kept separate.

One of the Athletic Commission guys who was with us the whole time – from backstage to the cage and backstage with us again – commented to me how awesome he thought our fight was because he saw us backstage drilling every single thing that Ovince did in his fight. He told me, “Man! You guys were just practicing every single thing that happened in that fight!” I’m not sure why he was surprised, that’s what is supposed to happen in a fight when the Coaches gameplan right.

Speaking of Coaches, I want to give a special shoutout to Nate Hoffmeister. Nate is a big, strong guy who really pushes Ovince during S&C workouts. He’s always at the fights and I really love him a lot, he’s such an enormous addition to our team. During the warmups backstage, Nate will take some of the drilling because he’s so dang strong and fast. While he and Ovince we’re doing some wrestling drills Ovince almost killed him with a takedown just before we were to walk out. But Nate soldiered on and even though he could barely breathe, let alone walk, he walked out there with us and did a great job in the corner. Thanks Nate for taking one for the team!

After the fight, I stayed in Vancouver for a few extra days with the wife so we could see some national parks and vacation a bit. I think it was on Monday that Joe Silva called and offered us the fight. So we kinda had Sunday off, but then it took a lot of restraint not to want to go to work right away breaking down film and gameplanning. By Tuesday, Bader’s camp had confirmed so we knew we had a fight. Then Wednesday the world knew. Fast turn around, but definitely not Ovince’s fastest. We had three fights in 7 weeks before. So having two fights only 6 weeks apart is like a long, luxurious vacation with that perspective.

In closing, I’d just like to add that this whole ride, the ups and the downs and the craziness of it all, is a result of God’s sovereignty and His plan. I am grateful that He has given us the opportunities He has. However, I think that all of them are only opportunities to point to Him as the source of our good fortune. Saint Augustine once wrote “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you” and I would say that is definitely how I approach the job that I have in front of me. I’m grateful for the blessings He has given me and I want to show myself as a worker who is not ashamed of my work (2 Tim. 2:15).

God bless you girls and guys out there and if you’re ever near Knoxville feel free to drop by, we love having guests!

-Coach Eric

Coach Eric Turner is the Head Instructor at Knoxville Martial Arts Academy in Knoxville, Tenn. He is the author of ProMMAnow.com’s “MMA Coach’s Corner,” a column in which he shares insight and knowledge gleaned from his years training and working with fighters at all levels. You can learn more about Coach Turner and Knoxville Martial Arts Academy at www.knoxvillemartialartsacademy.com