The summer of 2021 chugged along as many summers do for professional mixed martial artist Dylan Potter, being outdoors and savoring every minute of the beautiful summer season that the Pacific Northwest region of the United States is known for. The cherry on top of it all came in the form of an MMA fight that Potter had fought in several weeks earlier, at CageSport 61. Not only was this bout featured as the co-main event, but Potter would go on to finish his opponent by rear-naked choke in the second round, getting a much-needed win and elevating his MMA record to an impressive 10-5.
Now possessing double-digit victories in his career and after several years of competing in various minor promotions throughout the country, perhaps the young Washingtonian was one or two bouts away from having an opportunity to compete for a major promotion. Only time would tell.
Getting the Call
Weeks removed from earning his victory Potter received an unexpected phone call; the type of phone call that aspiring pugilists all over the world dream of getting. On the line was Mr. Mick Maynard, the Vice President of Talent Relations for the premier MMA promotion in the world, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, with two questions:
1.) Can you be available for a bout in two weeks?
2.)Are you willing to fight Lukasz Brzeski on Dana White’s Contender Series?
After quickly agreeing to the terms, Potter would find himself mere days later in Las Vegas at the UFC Apex surrounded by media trying to learn everything they could about the last-minute replacement from Olympia, Washington. Clad in his newly issued Contender Series garb, Potter would make the most important walk to the cage of his MMA career. One that would redefine the entire trajectory of his promising MMA career in a way that nobody could have imagined.
Dylan Potter vs. Lukasz Brzeski
From the opening bell, the fight took on a blistering pace we don’t typically see in the heavyweight class with both men landing strikes on one another. As the bout progressed, on the feet it appeared that Potter was getting the best of Brzeski. Potter landed the more impactful and damaging blows of the two which forced Brzeski to resort to the clinch and leverage his grappling skills to take the fight in a different direction.
While Potter would have brief moments in each of the first two rounds, heading into the third and final round it was apparent that Brzeski’s ability to maintain control in the clinch against the cage, get takedowns, maintain top control for extended periods of time and rain down ground and pound on Potter was giving him the clear edge. Brzeski was up two rounds to none, and everyone in the venue including Potter’s corner knew the only path to victory for Potter was to find a stoppage.
In the opening moments of the final round, Brzeski was able to get the better of Potter in a striking exchange by landing a left hook on the jaw that momentarily staggered Potter. With his back now against the cage, Brzeski transitioned into a Thai clinch which Potter managed to slip, but in the process of doing so, Brzeski landed a nasty right that hurt Potter and forced him to attempt a double-leg takedown. Brzeski stuffed it immediately and transitioned directly to the back mount. With limited time remaining in the fight and with Brzeski smelling blood in the water, he went for the finish. He unleashed a flurry of shots from the back mount trying to force referee Mark Smith’s hand into stopping the contest, however, most of the blows are being blocked with Potter managing to intelligently defend himself.
Hell-bent on finding the finish, Brzeski uses his repeated ground and pound to set up a rear naked choke submission on Potter. Wedged in between the cage and with no room to maneuver, Potter’s only chance at stopping the submission attempt is to fight the hands and try to break Brzeski’s grip. Amidst the chaos, referee Mark Smith interprets Potter’s hand movement as a tap and rips Brzeski off Potter officially ending the bout at 3:51 in the last round.
With Brzeski now embracing Potter and thanking him for a bout well fought, Potter calmly looked at Smith and simply says, “I did not tap.” When Smith insists otherwise, Potter asks “With what though?” Indeed, despite the evidence from the camera replays backing up Potter’s claim, the bout would end anyway with the Brzeski getting his hand raised and with Potter exiting the octagon in controversial fashion for the first and perhaps last time.
In the aftermath of the fight, Potter made his obligatory rounds on social media, thanking his supporters and vowing to be back better and stronger than ever. The typical statements you hear from every fighter when a bout does not go their way but shortly thereafter, he would make a statement that would shock everyone. On October 23, 2021, Potter announced on social media that at the age of 26 years old he was walking away from the sport of MMA. “I’m putting the gloves down and walking away because I feel in my heart it is the right thing to do. It makes me emotional to close this chapter of my life I’ve spent 11 years creating but I keep telling myself when one door closes another opens…”
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Change of Plans
That’s it. End of story. Or is it? Just as quickly as Potter exited from the sport of MMA he has now abruptly re-entered it. On July 26th Potter issued a short statement. It simply read, “I’m excited to call the PFL my new home…” with an announcement that he will be competing on August 5th in Madison Square Garden in New York City. Much like his bout on Dana White Contender Series, Potter will be entering this contest as a moderate betting underdog when he takes on Brazil’s Marcelo Nunes (8-1) on the undercard of PFL 7 2022. Will we see a new and improved Dylan Potter tonight? How did he determine that he was in the right place physically and more important mentally for this bout? What made him come out of retirement? Is he ready for a bout of this magnitude on this stage so soon after his disappointing loss? The only person who truly knows all these answers today is Dylan Potter himself. The rest of us will find out soon.