Rob Font needs special performance to rise in ‘messy’ UFC division

Rob Font needs special performance to rise in ‘messy’ UFC division

Posted on

The UFC bantamweight division is getting mighty crowded at the top.

The first order of business is a championship rematch between Aljamain Sterling and Peter Yan, after Sterling claimed the Yan’s title via disqualification in March. That figures to happen later this year.

But what then? Who’s got next in this loaded 135-pound division, which has become the trendy answer to the question, “What is MMA’s best weight class?”

Don’t rule out Rob Font, who will headline a UFC Fight Night for the first time on Saturday night from UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Standing in his way atop the ESPN+-aired event is former champion Cody Garbrandt in a bout that has “will not go the distance” written all over it.

But the pressure will be on for Saturday’s winner to outshine whomever will emerge from a July 24 clash between Cory Sandhagen and disgraced ex-champ T.J. Dillashaw, who is fresh off a two-year USADA suspension for using erythropoietin (EPO). That bout had been scheduled for earlier this month but was announced this week for the summer.

Read Also

PSL 2021 Live Streaming Online in India: How To Watch Free Telecast of Lahore Qalandars vs Islamabad United Pakistan Super League 6 Match in IST?

“You’re basically in a tournament right now,” Font told The Post over the phone on Tuesday. “Obviously, the T.J. and Sandhagen fight didn’t happen [this month]. I was really interested to know how that was gonna play out. And then the championship fight, they’ve gotta run that back. … We’re in a little messy spot, but that means an opportunity for me as well [if] I go out there and finish Garbrandt.”

Font (18-4, 12 finishes), who moved all over the globe as a youth thanks to both of his parents’ Army service but spent more than a year of elementary school living in Coney Island, understands there is more juice behind the Sandhagen-Dillashaw matchup as a No. 1 contender bout. However, he’s convinced he can “leapfrog” the winner of that clash if he impresses against Garbrandt (12-3, 10 finishes).

Perhaps some semblance of a repeat of his last outing will do the trick. That’s when Font, who entered as the underdog against former title challenger Marlon Moraes, needed just 3:47 to secure a TKO victory on Dec. 19 for his third victory in a row.

But the fight, short as it was, didn’t go smoothly. Font overcame a Moraes takedown within the first 10 seconds, followed by the bulk of the next three minutes with his opponent looking to advance position from top control.

But once the fight got back to standing at about the three-minute mark of the round, Font was able to turn the tide with potent punches in combination. A stinging jab staggered Moraes, and Font poured it on with furious ground strikes before the bout was waived off.

“I could feel that he didn’t want to do much on the ground. Once I got up, it felt like he was kind of tired,” Font said of Moraes. “From there, I was just like touch him, put hands on him and eventually I’ll get him out of there. And sure enough, I hit him with a jab — you could tell he felt it — put another combination together, dropped him, followed up with ground-and-pound and got out of there.”

Font’s opponent this weekend, the former champion Garbrandt, has fought past the second round just twice in the past five years. Other than his championship victory over Dominick Cruz, when he became the first man to defeat the division’s greatest champion at 135 pounds in a unanimous decision, each of his other seven bouts ended via (T)KO. He’s 4-3 in those, although he won his lone 2020 appearance right before the first-round horn with a brutal one-punch KO of Raphael Assuncao, who incidentally was the last man to defeat Font three years ago.

In that context, Font said he isn’t expecting to go the five-round distance but promises he’s physically ready for it if need be.

“My plan is to get in there and put him away in the second round,” Font said. “… He’s a killer; kill or be killed. This guy can finish the fight with either hand at any time, so I’ve gotta definitely be on point. My plan is to go in there, frustrate him with the jab and let him run into my right hand.”

From there, Font can only hope that’s enough to get him where he wants to be next: in a UFC championship fight.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *