Junior Albini believes he has learned some valuable lessons watching other athletes compete inside the Octagon.
Brendan Loughnane is one of the best prospects to come out of the European circuit in recent times, but UFC president Dana White chose not to sign him after he decided to go for a takedown with ten seconds left in his exciting Contender Series win earlier this month in Las Vegas.
“The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung, a top-ranked featherweight in the UFC, suffered a brutal knockout when he was a second away from defeating Yair Rodriguez in 2018, opting to charge forward instead of just waiting for the clock to expire.
White admitted he would have signed Loughnane, but that late takedown changed his mind. On the other hand, being so aggressive cost “The Korean Zombie” a decision win. Learning to balance that is tricky, and is something UFC heavyweight Junior Albini thinks about.
The 28-year-old Brazilian returns to the eight-sided cage to take on Maurice Greene at Saturday night’s UFC Minneapolis. It’s an important fight for Albini, who’s on a three-fight losing skid but refuses to play it safe just to score a win and earn another shot in the promotion.
“It’s complicated because you see both sides of the coin,” Albini told MMA Fighting. “We see this guy being overlooked for a double leg and ‘The Korean Zombie’ eating an unnecessary elbow. If (Jung) just stopped and waited, he would have won the fight. He went forward to entertain. It’s complicated, but if you’re in the UFC you can’t think about not taking risks. You have to take risks, show them you’re hungry for more. You have to go for the finish. UFC’s goal is to put on good fights. You can’t be dumb in the fight, of course, but there are things that are unnecessary. You have to balance that to be entertaining and also victorious.”
Albini impressed in his Octagon debut in July 2017, finishing Timothy Johnson in less than three minutes. He was then matched-up against former champion Andrei Arlovski and lost a decision. “Baby” was finished by Alexey Oleinik and Jairzinho Rozenstruik in his next bouts, but credits his aggressive style as the reason why he was given another chance in the promotion despite the long skid.
Albini doesn’t regret doing his last camps in Florida. In hindsight, though, he admits it wasn’t the best timing as his wife was getting close to giving birth to his son, Anthony Albini. Moving back from American Top Team to his hometown of Paranagua for this camp, he feels ‘no pressure at all.’
“Being quite honest with you, after the fight I said, ‘I think I’ll be fired now,’ so this fight is like a bonus,” Albini said. “Like, they believe in me. In a way, I can’t think about that, so there’s no pressure this time, brother. I thank the UFC for giving me another opportunity. This is like a bonus for me, so I’ll enjoy it no matter what happens next.”
Despite his last defeats, Albini feels he showed the company he’s a valuable addition to their heavyweight division.
“I was dominating Oleinik on the feet, he was pretty hurt and cut, and I was comfortable in the first round against Jairzinho too, so I think the UFC saw potential in me,” he said. “I have to fix some things to avoid making the same foolish mistakes again. The heavyweight division is tough, one tiny mistake costs the fight. Jairzinho hits hard. He dropped (Allen Crowder) with a jab and then almost killed him on the ground, so you can’t make mistakes.”
“The Crochet Boss”, Albini’s opponent in Minneapolis, is a former LFA title contender who joined the UFC after competing on The Ultimate Fighter in 2018, going 2-0 so far in the promotion. The Brazilian expects Greene to use Arlovski’s strategy against him, “keeping the distance and scoring points,” but now he knows how to counter that.
“I was too anxious against Arlovski,” Albini said. “I thought I was going to knock him out. There was all this talk about his chin, but you can’t blame his chin for the knockouts he suffered before. Those strikes would have finished anyone.
“I can’t make every strike I throw a kill shot. I have to be smart, take my foot off the gas a little bit and add more volume. The strike I landed to KO Tim Johnson, who had never been knocked out before, I only used 50 percent of my strength, but landed on the right stop and finished him.”