Even though he just beat the most high-profile opponent of his career, Dominick Reyes isn’t exactly crowing about it.
At UFC London, the fast-rising light heavyweight contender went to a decision for a second straight time after winning eight of his first nine pro bouts by first-round knockout or submission. Still undefeated at 11-0, Reyes learned a lot from going three rounds with Volkan Oezdemir, a recent UFC title challenger.
Though Reyes wasn’t able to put an exclamation point on the unanimous decision victory, he told host Luke Thomas on a recent episode of The MMA Hour that the fight was a valuable one in terms of development.
“I feel like it was a gut check kind of fight for me,” Reyes said. “I had to find that next gear. I’m not completely satisfied with my performance, I know I’ve got a lot more to show, but I came away with a win and that’s all that matters.”
Both Reyes and Oezdemir are known for their killer instinct, with Reyes having finished his first three UFC opponents and Oezdemir recording back-to-back knockouts of Jimi Manuwa and Misha Cirkunov in a combined 70 seconds of Octagon time. That may explain why the fighters took a cautious approach to the bout, limiting their chances of landing a particularly damaging shot in what turned out to be a closely-fought contest.
Reyes is grateful that he was able to learn off of a win and he gave credit to Oezdemir for being a strong opponent. Maybe a little too much credit, as it turns out.
“I controlled the distance pretty well, my feints and fakes were working, but I think I just gave him too much respect to be quite honest,” Reyes said. “I respected him more than I did my own thing. Instead of going out and doing my thing, I was worried about what he was doing and his power and things like that. It ended up working out, but going forward I’m definitely just gonna focus on playing my game.”
“I pretty much did everything I was game planning to do,” he added. “I just didn’t pull the trigger as much as I would have liked to.”
Decision or finish, things went mostly according to plan for Reyes, who felt good about his cardio holding up and not becoming another victim of one of Oezdemir’s potent counter-punches. He had to pass on some risks he may have taken in the past, including an opening in the first-round that he “can’t explain” why he didn’t jump on, but it meant he was able to gain fifteen minutes of useful data.
That will come in handy as Reyes continues his march towards what he sees as an inevitable clash with light heavyweight king Jon Jones. And whoever the next man is that steps into the cage with him, Reyes is planning to focus on what he brings to the fight first.
“It was huge. I got to go three rounds, Octagon time is invaluable, getting that time in there,” Reyes said. “Mid-fight I decided, ‘I’m gonna win this fight. And if I get knocked out, I get knocked out.’ That was part of it. I grew mid-fight. And I know without a doubt my cardio will hold up. I was pushing it throughout and I just felt like I was getting stronger.
“And then in terms of game planning and doing what I want to do, this was a good experience because I didn’t do exactly what I wanted to do in this fight and I recognized what happened and then how to address it going forward. It’s like, I’m not gonna just worry about my opponent only. Never again, it’s about me going forward.”