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UFC 296 Prelims: THE ULTIMATE COMPETITOR IN DUSTIN JACOBY

SportsUFC 296 Prelims: THE ULTIMATE COMPETITOR IN DUSTIN JACOBY

UFC 296 Prelims: Dustin Jacoby was just fine riding out the rest of 2023 on the sidelines. “The Hanyak” maintained his place in the light heavyweight Top 15.

He bounced back from an April loss to Azamat Murzakanov with a Performance of the Night stoppage of Kennedy Nzechukwu. And hey, since he was heading to Memphis for his wife Kahla’s half marathon. He might as well eat like a fat kid while there.

But then the phone rang. And now Jacoby is in Las Vegas preparing to get in a fistfight with Alonzo Menifield on this Saturday’s UFC 296 card at T-Mobile Arena.

Jacoby said that he get excited at the opportunity to fight somebody that’s ranked ahead of me. So he looked at that first and foremost of his thought process when presented with the fight.

The No. 15-ranked Jacoby was hoping to get a matchup with No. 10-ranked Ryan Spann. But that didn’t happen, so he assumed he was going to be back in action in 2024.

He really wasn’t too excited about fighting again this year, and he really wanted to fight Ryan Spann. They’ve been calling for his name over and over and it just hasn’t worked out.

Of course, he’s been ranked higher and wanting to compete up higher, and he get that. So, he was like, okay, we’ll kind of sit and wait and plan on fighting in March.

And then they came back relatively quick and said that what about Alonzo Menifield, December 16th, and a). I really liked the matchup. And b) my teammate Brandon Royval is fighting, so he was already going to be there.

So, in a fighter’s mind, if you’re already going to be in the building. You might as well get a paycheck?

Jacoby laughs, but taking another tough fight before the New Year arrives is his way of living up to what he set out to do as 2023 dawned. And as he points out, his word for 2023 was “keep.”

By that he explains that, he meant keep winning, keep climbing, keep my ranking. He wanted to really keep his ranking.

And he think he entered the year at number 14, so this is an opportunity for me to climb the ladder.

And get his ranking back and get one step closer to the Top 10.

The win over Nzechukwu was perhaps the most impressive of his UFC career, given the finish and the opponent he did it against. A lot of that likely had to do with the matchup.

Nzechukwu wasn’t going to be hard to find and he wasn’t going to grapple with him for 15 minutes. He was showing up to get into a fight, much like Menifield, so there are high expectations for this one.

I ask Jacoby if he ever gets insulted when fans want him to get into a knock down, drag ‘em out war.

Jacoby said that he haven’t put too much thought into it,. They still have, especially with this fight coming up, a big part of this year to look forward to and close out and finish strong.

He didn’t start the year the best with the loss in April, but he bounced back and fortunately got that big win in August.”

“No,” he laughs. “You know what? I get more excited.

I think that they’re like, ‘Whoa, two amazing fighters, two amazing competitors going at it.’

And we both played football. He was a linebacker, I was a quarterback, so that’s your classic bull versus matador matchup. And I think that’s what Alonzo is, too.

I think he’s a bull. He’s a big strong guy and, of course, he can take your head off. But I think those strengths are also part of his weakness in the sense that he gasses pretty quick.

He’s been doing a better job of not coming out so hard and is conserving himself a little bit. So it’ll be interesting to see which Alonzo comes out, but we’re going to be prepared for the best.

You know me, I’m always in it until the end. I truly believe that I can suffer a little bit more and a little bit longer than he can. And I know we’re going into deep waters.

I’m going to be prepared to face the best Alonzo. And I truly believe I’m going to get my hands raised.”

Deep waters have been where the 35-year-old Jacoby has done his best swimming. But, on the other hand, finishing strong has also meant that he’s started off slow.

That wasn’t the case against Nzechukwu or in other big wins over Da-un Jung. And Darren Stewart, but in the losses he’s suffered.

As well as a draw with Ion Cutelaba, Jacoby had to rally late to keep the fights close. So did his August win show off the “new” Dustin Jacoby?

“I think the styles make the fight,” he said. “And Kennedy, he was a big guy, and I enjoy fighting guys that are bigger than me. I just feel like I’m more of a counter fighter.

And that’s something that I need to incorporate in my game. Kennedy was on top of me from the time the bell rang.

He was right in my face and he was putting a lot of pressure on me. Which kind of worked into my game plan. I was trying to get him to come in at me and I was going to counter.

And that’s exactly what happened. And I think with this matchup with Alonzo, I’m looking to do the same thing. I’ve just got to draw him into me.”

Should he do that and end the year with another win and / or finish, Jacoby will be setting up a very interesting 2024. And, of course, any 205-pounder worth his salt wants a shot at the new champion, Alex Pereira.

Jacoby may want that shot more than most. Considering he faced the Brazilian in a Glory kickboxing match in March of 2014. The Coloradan lost that night to “Poatan,” and he wouldn’t mind getting some get back, even 10 years later.

“That’s the ultimate competitor in me,” Jacoby said. “I would definitely like to avenge any loss that I’ve had. That’s just the fighter in me. And now, in this circumstance, it’s not like I’d be screaming for that rematch.

But because Pereira is the champion, I would love to get that back. Especially since this is a completely different sport.”

It’s a sport he can safely call his final destination as a professional fighter. And in November, shortly after Pereira defeated Jiri Prochazka for the vacant crown, Jacoby’s phone buzzed again. It was a text message from his coach, Marc Montoya.

“I truly believe you can beat either one of those guys,” wrote Montoya.

“Me too,” Jacoby fired back. See you Monday.”

It was back to work for “The Hanyak.” And after this weekend, he’s looking up.

“That’s what we’re training for, man, to ultimately fight the best guys in the world,” he said. “And I’ve got to go out there and just be relaxed and get in the zone. And take care of business on December 16, and you never know what could happen.”

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