Ike Villanueva learned the hard way.
After making his UFC debut at an empty VyStar Arena in Jacksonville, Florida this past May, Villanueva never anticipated he would hear the commentators so clearly. Unfortunately for Villanueva, Chase Sherman listened too.
Villanueva suffered a second-round TKO after taking the heavyweight bout on short notice. Three months later, Villanueva vows to not repeat the same mistake twice in his light heavyweight clash with Jorge Gonzales at UFC’s Aug. 22 event.
Villanueava recalls hearing the voice of Daniel Cormier cage side.
“When the commentators talk, they hear it. DC was making some comments and Chase Sherman capitalized on it,” Villanueva said.
“He heard what he was telling him, It was like, ‘Man, can you quiet down a little bit, you’re feeding this guy.’”
Villanueva already feels more prepared than his first octagon appearance. He returns to his natural weight class in his second fight inside the octagon.
He even received more time in the lead up to the fight after the bout was moved from UFC 252 on Aug. 15 to the event on Aug. 22. The bout was postponed after Gonzalez had visa issues.
The Texas native will play the role as veteran, welcoming a newcomer in the form of Gonzalez. Making sure he can hear the commentators is one thing he’s making sure of this time around.
“I am going to capitalize on that when they’re talking,” Ike Villanueva said. “That’s something I’ll use to my advantage coming up in this fight.”
Villanueva is not taking his second octagon bout lightly. While Gonzalez dealt with visa issues, the UFC offered Villanueva a last-minute opponent.
The 36-year-old earned his UFC contract by taking a risk, moving up to heavyweight. He turned down the fight this time around, not wanting to take any chances. Just being in the UFC is not enough for Villanueva.
“I’m not a heavyweight, I’m a light heavyweight. Fighting heavyweight on a short-notice fight is something I had to do,” Villanueva said. “They offered me a last-minute opponent, but my management was like, ‘No, we’re focused on Jorge.’ This is my second fight and this is a very important fight. It made no sense to fight another short notice fight back-to-back.”
Villanueva is coming to the UFC Apex with something to prove following a disappointing start to his UFC career. He is used to changing opinions. He once sat at 7-7, but after a three-year layoff, Villanueva won four-consecutive bouts in 2015 and 2016.
He suffered losses to current UFC middleweight Tevin Giles and “Dana White’s Contender Series” alum, Antonio Jones along the way. From there, Villanueva built the four-fight win streak that earned him a UFC contract, including wins over octagon veterans Rashad Coulter and Roger Narvaez.
Villanueva considers himself more seasoned than his counterpart. Gonzalez enters the octagon at 16-4. Gonzalez fighter won seven of his last eight fights, including victories over UFC veterans Luke Barnatt.
Ike Villanueva is not impressed by Gonzalez’s recent run since four of those victories were over fighters with losing records.
The “Hurricane” is experienced inside the cage and he plans to showcase it come Aug. 22.
“I feel like his record is kind of padded at 16-4… I don’t think he fought the competition I’ve fought. When he did fight, he lost,” Villanueva said. “You can see from the last five years. There’s been nothing but improvement. If you overlook that, you’re crazy. I’m a guy who fought at 185, 205 and heavyweight, there’s no stepping over anything.”
Connor Northrup once covered municipal meetings and promised himself never again. He is now combining his passion for Mixed Martial Arts and reporting all into one.