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Patrick Cummins on matchup with Ovince Saint Preux: 'This favors me, for sure'

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Patrick Cummins still only has eight career fights, four of them coming in the UFC. He's still most known for a first-round knockout loss at the hands of Daniel Cormier in his short-notice UFC debut last year.

Yet, Cummins will go into Saturday's fight against Ovince Saint Preux, the eighth-ranked contender in the UFC's light heavyweight division, as the favorite, according to sports books. "Durkin" won't argue with that assessment.

"He's gonna present a different puzzle, obviously," Cummins told "I think this is gonna be a great matchup for me. As soon as the name came up, I thought this is a matchup I want. This favors me, for sure. But there's obvious things that could pose a problem."

The two will meet in an important 205-pound showdown on the FOX Sports 1 prelims portion of UFC on FOX 15 in Newark. Saint Preux is not to be taken lightly. In his last bout, he knocked out Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in the first round. The ever-improving OSP has won seven of his last fight fights and his only recent losses in the last six years have come against elite fighters like Gegard Mousasi and Ryan Bader.

Bader, though, laid out a solid game plan for beating the athletic, unorthodox Saint Preux: pressure wrestling. That just so happens to be Cummins' biggest strength.

"I want to keep that pressure high," Cummins said. "I think his conditioning is a question mark.

"I want to strike with him. I want to be in that clinch position. But I also think, yeah if I can pick him up and throw him on his head, that's going to help me a bunch."

Cummins (7-1) has won three straight in the UFC since that ill-fated debut against Cormier at UFC 170 in February 2014. The 34-year-old got a call a week out of the fight from UFC president Dana White and got fired from his job at an Orange County, Calif., coffee shop for taking it during work hours. Cummins filled in for the injured Rashad Evans on just a few days notice.

Cormier finished Cummins in just 1:19, but it's a little more than a year later and Cummins is one of the hottest light heavyweights in the world. He has dominated en route to wins over Roger Narvaez, Kyle Kingsbury and Antonio Carlos Junior. OSP will be his toughest test since Cormier and Cummins isn't trying to rush anything.

"I just want to keep chipping away," Cummins said. "I like to say I keep climbing the ladder with every fight. I feel like, OK, I passed this test, give me something a little tougher. I'll keep chipping away until I earn the respect I feel like I should be given."

Cummins, a former two-time wrestling All-American at Penn State, thinks with two or three more fights he'll be in contention. He's very much still a work in progress, especially with his striking. Cummins can wrestle with any MMA fighter in the world, but his stand-up is still improving. In the last few months, Cummins said he has felt himself get more comfortable and things are beginning to click.

As dominant as he was last December in a unanimous decision against Carlos Junior, Cummins was not completely satisfied with the performance.

"I wasn't too pleased with it," Cummins said. "My manager pulled me aside and was like, 'Hey you did a lot of great things. I think you're probably fighting at about 50 percent of your potential.' I know there's a lot of room to improve. I felt it and he felt it."

The Saint Preux fight will be his chance for a coming-out party. Cummins and UFC fans kind of got off on the wrong foot. But the former barista has a major chance for retribution in 2015 and it starts in Newark.

"I don't feel like I'm behind the curve because I don't have that many fights," Cummins said. "But at the same time, I feel like there's plenty of room for me to improve. I think that's a scary thing for a lot of people. They see a guy that doesn't have that many fights and all of a sudden he's jumping up, taking a top-10 guy out. Many people might say, 'Oh, he's not even comfortable in this situation yet.' I want to look at it like a positive thing. Keep marching on."

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