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UFC 279’s Julian Erosa: A Win Over Hakeem Dawodu ‘Definitely Propels My Name’

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Julian Erosa (27-9 MMA, 5-5 UFC) is looking to make it six wins in his last seven fights when he meets up with “Mean” Hakeem Dawodu (13-2-1 MMA, 6-2 UFC) at UFC 279 on Sept. 10.

Erosa said his foe is a “pretty good standard kickboxer.”

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“I think he likes the kind of fight where it’s tit-for-tat because he gets the better of most guys if it’s almost like a point-sparring session,” Erosa told MMASucka. “So I think to my benefit, it would be to get a little bit dirty in there; almost like the [Steven] Peterson fight, the [Sean] Woodson fight, the [Charles] Jourdain fight or even the [Nate] Landwehr fight. Just being able to make it dirty and make it a bit of a scramble on the feet. That’s going to be beneficial to me. If I can mix it up like that, I can frustrate him and eventually get him a bit tired, and then hopefully get some sort of finish, whether it’s a TKO or a submission on the ground.”

Erosa said his best path to victory would see him mixing in some grappling in an effort to get Dawodu off his game.

“Juicy J” was complimentary of Dawodu’s striking, noting that while Dawodu doesn’t have many knockouts, he still plans to avoid his biggest shots early in the fight.

“That’s when everybody is the most powerful and snappy with their punches and strikes,” Erosa said. “Especially against a guy like Dawodu, who’s so technically sound, you don’t necessarily need to have as much power if you’re throwing everything correctly.”

Erosa said his game plan does not revolve around risk management, adding that he is willing to get finished trying to finish his opponent first, but he is trying to find a balance.

“I think for me, the best avenue with the risk and reward would be to start off a bit slower, and manage the range and be as inventive as possible earlier on. But I know there’s going to be a point in the fight where things are going to start going out the window and we’ll be a bit brawly. When you do that, you run the risk of getting knocked out. You run the risk of getting hurt and losing the fight. But for me, it is what it is. These things happen in the fight game. I’d rather go down swinging than be content with losing a point-sparring match.”

Erosa invoked Mike Trizano‘s fight with Dawodu, saying it was “pretty uneventful.”

“Nobody necessarily got hurt, but Trizano was almost willing to lose a fight like that instead of getting risky,” Erosa said. “That’s never been my game plan. If I can get the better of Dawodu and if I can be inventive early on, and it’s working, then yeah, I’m going to keep that path going. But if I was losing a fight like Trizano was losing a fight with [Dawodu], I think you’re going to see me become a little bit riskier and be willing to be a little less defensive, try to push the pace and try to win fight, versus losing a fight. I’d rather go down swinging than slightly lose a fight because I was being too defensive.”

Erosa knows what a win over Dawodu would mean, as Dawodu has been hovering around the top-15 of the featherweight division – even if a top-15 slot isn’t the end all-be all for Erosa.

“Honestly, for me, I’m not super worried about rankings or fighting guys who are ranked. I’m just focused on the task at hand. I’m focused on putting more performances [that are entertaining]. Win lose or draw, I want to be one of those guys who are a fan favorite and who people are excited to watch fight. To go out there and build that legacy. I think there’s a fine line between wanting to be exciting and being reckless. I always want people to enjoy my fights, but I don’t want to be too reckless. I think after a win over Hakeem, I think that definitely propels my name and solidifies me in the feathwerweight division. I could be looking at a guy hovering around the top-10, top-15 for my next fight.”

Erosa said he is looking for a second or third-round TKO or submission over Dawodu.

“I think it’s going to be pretty similar to the Sean Woodson fight or the Jourdain fight where there’s a lot of standing, but eventually, I want to get it to the ground. I want to push his cardio, push the pace and eventually tire him out and get a TKO or submission in the third round.”

Erosa said Dawodu would be the biggest win of his career from a name-value standpoint, but he feels his most recent wins have aged pretty well. Particularly his 56-second flying knee KO over Nate Landwehr, who has beaten David Onama, Darren Elkins and Ludovit Klein in the UFC.

“These guys are savages in their own right. And for him to go put these performances on. I beat [Landwehr] at a time when he was relatively unknown; it was only his second UFC fight. Now, when you look at Landwehr, you’re like, ‘Holy shit.’ It really raises my stock. I think that win has matured fantastically. I think getting that win over Landwehr still could be better than a win over Hakeem. Only because Landwehr is a guy who brings it. I think Hakeem has a decent name, but some of these guys are putting resumes together that make it pretty impressive that I beat them.

“Even Sean Woodson,” Erosa continued. “I know Sean Woodson didn’t look the best in his last fight [in a draw vs Luis Saldana], but it’s still a draw, and I’m still his only loss. It’s nice to have that feather in my cap. Peterson is a vet and I beat him in an outstanding fight. Jourdain is fighting this weekend. He’s a young up-and-coming guy who’s very exciting. Even though he lost to [Shane] Burgos, he put on a very good performance in what arguably could have been a draw. Kind of the resumes that these guys are putting on after I beat them has kind of upped my stock. I think as of Hakeem, fighting him versus fighting those guys at those times, I think he’s the biggest name leading up to the fight.”

Erosa says Nikolas Motta has been his main sparring partner for this camp. Motta is slated to fight Cameron VanCamp a week later on Sept. 17.

Erosa has changed his sparring habits considerably over his last five fights. He would previously spar a couple of days a week for five or six rounds against five or six different guys.

“That’s nice to mix it up and learn from those things, but it’s more of a thing that I think is better outside of camp,” he said. “You want to get five different looks, six different looks with different guys and work game plans against different types of guys and see what advantages and disadvantages you have against these guys.”

It’s different in a fight camp, however.

“Getting ready for a fight, you’re going to go fight a guy for three rounds and it’s the same guy. You want to be able to adjust between rounds and you want to get used to being in the cage. You want to mimic your sparring sessions like a fight. You want your coaches there, you want his coaches there. You want to be in the cage and you want it to feel like as much of a fight as possible just to get you a little more comfortable in there. I’ve been keeping that same mentality with my sparring. I feel like it’s the small little details of that have helped tremendously.”

UFC 279: Khamzat Chimaev vs. Nate Diaz, is set to go down at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday.

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Michael is a big MMA fan who enjoys interviewing the sport's athletes, writing about the sport, and just discussing it. He earned his Master's in Journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and his B.A. in Journalism at Stony Brook University. He also enjoys hockey, football and baseball. Feel free to hit him up if you want to discuss MMA, or any other sport!

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