As Julian Erosa (22-6 MMA, 1-2 UFC) put it, both he and Grant Dawson (12-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) will prepare similarly for their featherweight clash at UFC on ESPN+ 4: they’ll both be practicing their striking, wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu. Both men will be running on the treadmill, preparing their cardio and getting their weight down. However, the one thing Erosa knows Dawson can’t match before March 9 is his experience.
“Experience is key. Experience is everything if you really think about it,” Erosa told MMASucka. “There’s only so much you can learn in the gym from sparring sessions that you can’t really learn from an actual fight. Not only that, but fighting on big stages. It’s one thing to step into a regional scene and be able to not succumb to that pressure. It’s going to affect you more because you’re in the UFC.”
Past UFC Experience
Unlike Dawson, who is making his promotional debut, Erosa has had a few UFC fights across a pair of stints. When he considers what he went through during his first run in the Octagon, he says that experience has been huge for him.
He won a split decision in his official UFC debut against Marcin Wrzosek in The Ultimate Fighter: Season 22 finale, but he didn’t consider that his UFC debut because it still felt like the show to him. Instead, the oft-mentioned “Octagon jitters” got to Erosa in his next fight against Teruto Ishihara at UFC 196, he confessed.
“I heard Joe Rogan’s voice, I heard Mike Goldberg’s voice,” he said. “It kind of overtook me, and I ended up losing that fight. It was a mental mistake. So it wasn’t a skill-set thing, it wasn’t a cardio thing, it wasn’t a preparation thing. I made weight great. It was probably one of the best weight-cuts I’ve had. It was more of a mental thing because of that.”
Being KO’d by Ishihara instilled in Erosa another valuable piece of experience in what he referred to as the worst possible way you could lose.
“I’ve lost by knockout in the UFC in front of all my friends and family and in front of billions of people watching,” he explained. “Having that already happen, it makes it a lot easier to go in there because it can’t get any worse than that. I’m more relaxed. The worst thing that’s going to happen to me has already happened to me. I’ll be fine with it and I’ll be able to survive afterwards. I’m ready to really let that go and not think about that in the fight. More experience is definitely going to be a big edge for me.”
Road Back to the Octagon
Erosa was released following that fight, and then toiled on the regional scene for eight fights over two years. In that time, he went 6-2, captured the CageSport lightweight title twice and defended it. He then earned an opportunity on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series against Jamall Emmers. Erosa knocked Emmers out early in the second round with a head kick and punches to earn another shot with the UFC.
While Erosa’s first fight back didn’t go as planned against Devonte Smith, it was a short-notice fight up a weight class from where he wanted to compete. Against Dawson, he has the opportunity to return to featherweight, where he intends to make his run.
“I’m super hungry to get some wins at featherweight and really make a statement at this weight class,” he said. “The last guy I fought at featherweight was Jamall Emmers on the Contender Series. He was able to land some of his hardest punches on me and wasn’t able to faze me or stun me. At lightweight, when you’ve got somebody like Devonte Smith who has missiles for hands, it’s a different story. Featherweight is ideal for me because I can take the punishment and I can also give it out. I’m a bigger, stronger dude at that weight class, as well.”
Erosa Previews his Match-up
When it comes to his next match-up, Erosa noted that Dawson is most successful when he’s able to get opponents to the ground. More than half of Dawson’s professional wins have come via submission. Erosa feels he holds an edge in the stand-up, and said that’s where he’ll try to keep the fight.
“I see the fight going as me trying to keep that range in the distance with him and get him into a frustrating position where he wants to take a desperate shot, push me up against the cage and try working that takedown that he’s really going to want desperately,” Erosa said.
Erosa believes he’s Dawson’s toughest test to date. He said unlike Dawson’s past “mediocre” competition who have tried to play an active guard and throw “weak-ass hammerfists” once they’ve gotten taken down, he won’t settle for being on the bottom.
“If he does take me down, that’s basically the gun at the starting line,” Erosa said. “If he gets me to the ground, I’ll scramble. It’s up, up, up. There’s no resting there. We have a guy like Grant Dawson [in our gym] who knows his defense very well, and someone in his guard is going to have a hard time subbing him, and you’re just going to lay on your back for the whole fight.”
UFC on ESPN+ 4 will take place at INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita, KS.
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