If light heavyweight prospect Jared Hamman was going to be gun-shy after suffering a knockout loss in his UFC debut against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 105 last November, his March 27th opponent, Rodney Wallace, made sure to test his ‘fight or flight’ response immediately at UFC 111 in Newark, New Jersey.
Hamman passed that test, not only absorbing Wallace’s bombs, but firing off and landing more than a few of his own en route to a unanimous decision victory and a Fight of the Night bonus.
“At UFC 105, I felt like I didn’t represent myself very well,” said Hamman. “I just went in there a hundred miles an hour and then got knocked down and knocked out (against Gustafsson). With the Rodney Wallace fight, I was better able to represent the kind of fighter that I am and what I have to bring to the table. I obviously got cracked more than a few times in the first round, we went back and forth, and it was a hard fought fight. It was the first time I had been to a decision, and I thought that was a better representation of who Jared Hamman is as a fighter, so I was very happy.”
The bonus check didn’t hurt either, but what Hamman really gained from 15 minutes of back-and-forth combat was respect from fight fans and the knowledge that if a war broke out in the middle of a fight and he couldn’t use his power shots to end a fight, he could not only survive, but win.
“It was the first time I had ever been to a decision, so people may have thought that I couldn’t last three rounds,” said Hamman, who knocked out nine previous opponents and submitted two. “I knew that I could, and that solidified it. With that fight, I was able to get a lot of ring time and quality experience that you don’t really get in practice, and that actually helped a lot. For instance, in a lot of my fights, I haven’t really been on my back a lot up to that fight. So I was able to be put in positions I had never been in before and I was able to review a few strengths and a few weaknesses.”
And if you looked a little deeper into Hamman’s career, you would notice that at the very least, there’s no dog in the 28-year old, who bounced back from his only pre-UFC loss – a knockout defeat against Po’ai Suganuma in 2008 – by halting Suganuma in the first round four months later. He wasn’t going to let the Gustafsson fight define him, so his attitude was simple heading into UFC 111.
“The thing with the Rodney Wallace fight is that my mindset was I don’t care what’s gonna happen – I don’t care if I get hit or taken down – no matter what, I’m not stopping. That was my whole mindset. There’s always a pressure in the UFC of losing fights because you might get cut, but knowing that any fight could be my last, I train like that, to give it everything I’ve got and to not look back.”
In other words, Hamman’s a fighter, and Wallace found that out early in New Jersey. And by the second round, the two realized that they may be in the midst of something special.
“I knew it was back and forth, and in the middle of the fight, Rodney was like ‘hey, let’s get that Fight of the Night award, baby.’ I said, ‘Yeah, let’s do this.’”
Hamman chuckles at the recollection, but he knows better than most that he can’t dwell on past glories too long. As a former linebacker and defensive lineman (and later, coach) for the University of Redlands, Hamman is aware that a win one week doesn’t guarantee you a win the next, so you have to move on, build on your strengths and eliminate your weaknesses before the next time you compete. It’s a thought process and way of life shared by his opponent this Wednesday in Austin, Texas, former Arizona State defensive lineman and fellow 205-pound prospect Kyle Kingsbury.
“He’s another football player and he’s on the defensive side of the ball, which means there’s something wrong with him,” laughs Hamman. “He’s got that nasty personality when it comes to competition, and I enjoy fighting guys like that. He’s gonna bring it hard and bring it strong and he works at a great camp, so that always fires me up.”
Kingsbury, like Hamman, turned to mixed martial arts after football, and while you may rightfully think that hitting on the gridiron is a lot different than hitting in the Octagon, Hamman explains that the biggest adjustment from one sport to the other takes place in the mind and in the gym.
“In football, you’re always pushed to go harder, stronger, faster, and work, work, work,” he said. “With MMA, sometimes when you learn a technique, you can’t go full bore the first time. In football, you’re told that in every single drill, you do it at 110% and then some. But when you’re working on such finesse-type techniques, you can’t do it a hundred percent because you won’t get it. So it’s really hard for a football player like myself that wants to go hard and do it to calm down and slow down and learn the techniques right. That’s the hardest thing about MMA. There are so many intricate techniques to learn that you can’t take that same type of mindset you had in football into MMA.”
But some things never change, and when the bell rings on Wednesday night, you can expect Hamman and Kingsbury to meet in the center of the Octagon and leave everything in there in search of victory. It’s an old football mindset, one that also instructs to never look to tomorrow because that’s when you’ll lose today.
“Kyle’s gonna come in and try to knock my head off, so if I were ever to think past him, it would be stupid,” he said. “I know Kyle’s coming in to give his best and I’m for sure coming in hard and coming in strong. I’m coming off a great camp, and I’m ready to bring it in this fight, and go one fight at a time. In the future, who knows what’s gonna happen? We’re not even guaranteed our next heartbeat. I know he’s coming in to beat me up and I’m gonna bring it just as hard.”