Ian Heinisch (13-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) picked up the biggest victory of his professional MMA career last week at UFC on ESPN+ 10 when he took a clear unanimous decision over dangerous Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace, Antonio Carlos Junior (10-3 MMA, 7-3, 1 no-contest UFC).
Vs. Carlos Junior
“Shoeface” controlled Heinisch on the ground for the first round, but “The Hurricane” got the better of the final 10 minutes of the fight as he wore his opponent out.
“I had to weather the storm in the first round,” Heinisch said of his win. “He got me in a bad position very quick. I knew I couldn’t be super explosive, I had to be very technical and a little cautious of getting caught in something, especially because we weren’t slippery. I came out in the second round and told my coaches, ‘That’s all he got’ and started throwing down. Overall, the victory was good. I wish I could have finished him. He’s a tough dude and I felt like I broke him a bit.”
With a win over No. 12-ranked Carlos Junior, Heinisch is now ranked No. 11 in the UFC middleweight division–in just two fights.
“It feels amazing,” he said. “It feels surreal. My girl’s always told me I’m on the fast track to get to the belt. I feel like my last performance, I proved I deserve to be here. I want to break into the top-10 my next fight. By the end of this year, I would like to be top-5. That’s my goal.”
Next Opponent In Mind
Heinisch has three potential opponents in mind for his targeted return at the end of August. Derek Brunson (No. 9), Jack Hermansson (No. 5) or Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (No. 6).
“[Brunson] is a good fight that the fans want to see,” Heinisch said. “Hermansson has got a lot of momentum and I’d love to get a piece of that. And then also, I wouldn’t mind fighting Jacare. If he wanted to take that fight, he’s one of the best in Jiu-Jitsu, and he’s also got powerful striking.”
Heinisch has had a lot of success in taking out BJJ practitioners in his budding UFC run. His first win came over Cezar Ferreira, and the second came over Carlos Junior. Heinisch believes Souza is the only great BJJ fighter still ahead of him in the rankings.
His success against grapplers comes after Heinisch really started specially preparing for them during his training camps, in particular his last one. After struggling with Ferreira, Heinisch began to focus on drilling takedown defense.
“I always invited the takedown and my teammates usually never shoot on me because they didn’t want to get into grappling exchanges with me and scramble,” he said. “I never really worked on my initial takedown defense until my last fight when I got taken down almost every round. Then I was like, ‘Okay. Cezar had really good timing. He was getting under me. I was getting very aggressive in coming forward.’ And then if I’m to face a wrestler like Derek Brunson, I want to be able to sprawl and brawl and stuff his shots.”
Heinisch notes that his biggest improvements have come in his Jiu-Jitsu defense. He intends to keep sharpening his takedown defense, while continuing to work on his preferred method: striking.
“My striking always can improve,” he said. “Finding that knockout punch. I need to set it up a little better with some touches and set up those power punches for the knockout.”
Heinisch will be ready for whatever his next opponent throws at him. But whatever fight he takes, he only wants a certain type of bout to ensue between them.
“I want to get in an exciting firefight in my next one and not just defend Jiu-Jitsu until they slow down.”
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