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Gokhan Saki says transition to MMA factored into cardio trouble in UFC debut

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Gokhan Saki passed his first UFC test with flying colors in Japan on Friday night.

The Turkish kickboxing legend dispatched Henrique da Silva inside the first round of their light-heavyweight meeting with his signature left hook – “The Saki Bomb” – to delight of the crowd in Saitama.

Despite the fight going exactly the way he had predicted in terms of a finish, Saki ran into some trouble when he was rocked by an elbow and knee from the Brazilian’s clinch.

After the taking the shots, Saki visibly slowed down before landing the conclusive blow, leading to questions about his cardio.

Addressing the criticism of his cardio, Saki claimed he is still getting used to the five-minute rounds in MMA, having contested three-minute rounds throughout his kickboxing career.

“My last fight with Glory was in 2014 with Tyrone Spong and then after that, one year later I had another fight, so in the last three and a half years I only fought one time,” Saki told Ariel Helwani on the latest episode of The MMA Hour.

“After my last fight – it was a kickboxing fight – I was always ready for three minutes. Now, it was five minutes. Like I said, I only started training this year in MMA conditioning and you cannot build it up in a couple of months.

“After every fight you need to keep training to build up your muscle conditioning and your strength conditioning. If I had a kickboxing fight, maybe I would be tired because I didn’t train for this.”

Saki said a combination of ring rust and investing too much in power shots sapped him of energy.

“How I see the contest, for the first three minutes I was good, and then after three and four minutes I started to get a little bit tired but also the ring rust was coming,” he explained.

“The first time I hit him with a knockdown, he went down and when he stood up I only give power punches. Normally, in kickboxing when I was training all the time, I am thinking all the time in the fight, throwing combinations. This time I was only giving power shots.

“Now I’ve started training again already because this was my first time in an ultimate fight. It was only 50 percent. This is just the beginning. I’m really happy to be back on this big stage. I’m ready to show many, many more things.”

“The Turkish Tyson” would have liked to be more dynamic with his striking, highlighting that he should have used more combinations against da Silva.

“After the first time he went down, I was throwing a lot of left hooks and right hooks. He knows what was coming. If you keep (throwing combinations) in a fight, that’s the most difficult thing for opponents. That’s where KOs are coming from,” Saki said.

“The power was there 100 percent, but there is nothing like combinations when you are trying to knock your opponent out.”