With a 1-2 record thus far in his UFC career, Daukaus acknowledges that he hasn’t looked his best since joining the roster but he’s also confident that given enough time, he’ll prove he belongs among the best of the best at middleweight.
So when the golden opportunity to face a ranked opponent like Holland was presented to him, Daukaus jumped at the chance even if in the back of his mind, he realizes he’s probably being set up as a way for Holland to earn a win after two lopsided losses in a row.
“I think the mindset for the UFC and Kevin Holland is they’re just trying to get him back in the win column,” Daukaus said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “Just get people talking about him again. There’s been a lot of hype around him cause he talks a lot and everything like that.
“He’s coming off two losses to I think No. 3 [ranked fighter] and No. 1, or something like that. He lost to [Derek] Brunson, a five-rounder to Brunson and then he just lost to [Marvin] Vettori. So it’s a little weird in my situation but my mindset going into the fight, they’re looking at it like getting Kevin Holland another win. He’s ranked. I shouldn’t be getting a ranked opponent but I am. I’m going after it full steam ahead. I’m going to go right after him.”
A huge part of Holland’s recent losing streak has come down to a huge deficiency in his wrestling game after giving up multiple takedown in both fights he dropped by decision.
That led to Holland briefly traveling to California to work with former two-division UFC champion Daniel Cormier and then calling on ex-UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks to serve as his wrestling coach for this entire training camp.
It’s nearly impossible to work with two wrestlers of that caliber without getting better but Holland is also attempting to make fundamental changes to his skill set over a relatively short period of time with his last fight just five months ago.
Daukaus can’t allow himself to be consumed by Holland’s shortcomings but he also acknowledged that he’d be foolish not to use his wrestling just to see how much the always mouthy middleweight has learned.
“I do believe in myself that I will strike with him but it’s mixed martial arts,” Daukaus said. “I’m going to mix it up. In these last two fights you’ve seen with the blueprint how to beat him, I’m going to go out there and just follow the blueprint and just grind him against the cage, take him down, use my wrestling to just beat him up and try not to get into bad positions.
“He’s a little unorthodox on the ground as well. He likes to throw strikes from the bottom. But it would be stupid of me not to take advantage of his not so good wrestling.”
A big part of the narrative leading up to this fight is Holland getting some confidence back with a win so he could then start targeting higher ranked opposition once again.
The fact that Daukaus’ name hasn’t been brought up all that much leading into the fight doesn’t really bother him but if Holland is somehow focused on the future instead of the present, the 28-year-old fighter from Philadelphia promises to make him pay for it.
“I hope he is [looking past me],” Daukaus said. “He’s got a big surprise coming if he is. It’s stupid to sign a contract and not worry about who you’re fighting. I think that’s how he is. He likes to be cool and everything like that as far as worrying about fights and talking about fights.
“Everything he’s said about me has been nice. He’s been nothing but nice in the interviews I’ve seen him talking about me. I have nothing but respect for him as well. But when the bell rings, all respect is out the door.”