Dustin Jacoby (19-7-1 MMA, 7-4-1 UFC) got back into the winner’s circle in a big way against Kennedy Nzechukwu (12-4 MMA, 6-4 UFC) in Nashville on Aug. 5.
“The Hanyak” needed just 1 minute and 22 seconds to end Nzechukwu’s night, landing a flush right cross that put Nzechukwu down. Jacoby landed some ground strikes, forcing the referee to pull him away for the TKO.
Jacoby snapped a two-fight skid, including a controversial decision loss to Khalil Rountree, with the win. The victory helped Jacoby keep his light heavyweight ranking, as well.
“It feels great to get back in the win column,” Jacoby told MMASucka. “Of course, anytime you can get a win inside the UFC, it’s a big deal. Any time you can get a win when you’re a ranked opponent over a guy who’s trying to take your spot and has a lot of hype behind him, it’s a really big deal.”
Jacoby had to eat a shot to land the right cross, but he said he didn’t feel the shot in real time.
“I didn’t even realize he had hit me until I watched the replay,” he said. “He had a couple of shots in there that never rocked me by any means, but you know you’re in a fight when a guy that big is throwing heat at you. I didn’t feel it. I countered nicely, went in for the kill and finished the job.”
Jacoby admitted he was “pretty surprised” when Nzechukwu went down.
“I didn’t realize I hit him so clean until I saw the replay. I caught him perfectly right on the button. A muscle memory thing and a drill we practice all the time, Mark Montoya and I at Factory X. Again, it was muscle memory. I saw him drop, and I knew I needed to do what needed to be done to finish the fight. I went in for the kill, the ref intervened, and we got the big win.”
Jacoby said he lost “a little bit of confidence” after the Rountree loss, which took a “lot of wind out of the sail,” calling the decision “very disappointing.”
His next assignment was an undefeated prospect in Azamat Murzakanov. Murzakanov defeated Jacoby via unanimous decision in a fight where “The Hanyak” nearly finished Murzakanov in the third round.
“Nobody’s been able to solve that problem yet,” Jacoby said. “He’s a super fast, super powerful guy who’s undefeated and has a lot of knockouts. I was arguably 20 seconds away from getting that win. I lost the first round for sure. The second round was close until I got dropped in the last 20 seconds, and then I won the third round. I finished the fight strong. To go out there and get a big win over a surging prospect [in Nzechukwu] was a big deal.”
Jacoby said the convincing finish over Nzechukwu didn’t only get him back in the win column, but it brought his confidence back.
“I believed in myself all the way up to the fight. I trained hard. I’m always prepared properly. And as long as I am prepared, I always plan on winning. I truly believed I was going to win that fight. Three losses in a row on paper is never a good thing. I didn’t feel a lot of pressure, but I knew three losses in a row is never a good thing. To get back in the win column means everything. You’re only as good as your last fight, they say, so that leaves me with a ton of confidence heading into the top-10 challenges.”
Jacoby said he’s ready for his next fight soon and wants an opportunity to crack the top-10 of light heavyweight. He’s routinely been tasked with fighting opponents and prospects who are behind him in the rankings and wants his shot to move up rather than defend his spot. Because of injuries and unavailability, Jacoby said the 205-pound division is wide open.
“I would love a fight with Jan Blachowicz,” Jacoby said. “I would love that fight, honestly man. I don’t know if he would drop that low in a sense of risking that much being ranked that high. I think it’s a great fight for myself. There are other guys who have bumped up and they’re not available. I’ve just got to see how it plays out, but I definitely want to compete ahead of me.”
Blachowicz, the former light heavyweight champion, sits at No. 4 in the rankings. He lost a close decision to former middleweight champion Alex Pereira at UFC 291.
Rountree sits at No. 11 in the rankings. Jacoby, No. 15, said he is “certainly not opposed” to a rematch with Rountree, where a win would logically move him up the rankings.
Jacoby was on a nine-fight unbeaten streak in professional MMA (6-0-1 since returning to the UFC) before the loss to Rountree.
“It is so unfortunate that’s how my streak ended,” Jacoby said. “I came up short. People want to bring up damage. I out-struck [Rountree] by almost 40 strikes. When you score damage, damage shouldn’t be scored on a fighter getting a black eye or a fighter getting cut open. An older fighter like myself who’s had a significant amount of battles, 50 professional fights, I’m going to show a black eye and a cut easier than someone who’s had significantly less battles than me. Rountree never rocked me. He never wobbled me. Damage, to me, is if one of those big shots would’ve rocked me or buckled me or if I would’ve went down. That’s damage. Me having a black eye is not damage when I outstruck him by 40-plus strikes.
“If I got the rematch, great,” he continued. “It’s something I’m certainly not opposed to. At the same time, I truly feel deep down, that him and I both know who won that fight, and I’m OK. I can sleep well at night knowing that. It’s just very disappointing that’s how my streak ended, because if I had won that fight, let’s say the Azamat fight doesn’t happen, and now I’m right there in a division that’s wide open. And I’m still right there. I truly believe that. I would like the opportunity to fight an opponent who’s ranked higher than me and to get into that top-10. I truly see myself being a champion in that division sooner than later. I feel like it’s meant to be, and the timing is great right now.”
Rountree recently knocked out former heavyweight Chris Daukaus on Aug. 12 in 2:40. Jacoby said it was “good to see” Rountree win.
“When you fight somebody, you want to see guys that you beat and guys that you don’t do well, you know? I don’t want to be the guy that everybody else beat up, and I don’t want to lose to a guy who everybody beat up. It was good to see him get a win.”
Jacoby, whether it’s against Rountree, Blachowicz, or someone else ahead of him, wants his next opportunity to prove himself soon.
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