There is a formula to building a mixed martial artist. Coaches and trainers take the athlete’s foundation and after adding the additional disciplines hope they’ve created a fighter who can adapt to the many facets of cage fighting.
This weekend in San Diego, Ovince St. Preux will discover if he’s got what it takes.
Over the past 18 months St. Preux has been on fire. The former University of Tennessee linebacker has dispatched opponents at a rapid pace, claiming eight victories and doubling the production the typical fighter would see in that time. More impressive is a recent Strikeforce run that saw St. Preux pack in three victories over the course of a seven week span.
He will look to keep that momentum alive when he faces former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi.
“It was something I definitely I didn’t expect but it when the opportunity presents itself you have to take it,” St. Preux told HeavyMMA. “After I fought Antwain Britt last year on November 19th I went home for Thanksgiving and Strikeforce called. It was less than a week’s notice and I had to ask myself whether or not I would ever get another opportunity like this.
“I stepped in, did my job, and it was a good situation where I came out on top. It helped to establish my name a bit. Then I turned around again and fought January 7th and that was three fights in seven weeks.”
St. Preux created a buzz in the MMA world. For a fighter whose career had gotten off to a slow start, everything began to click at the right time.
“In the beginning of my career I got involved with trying to combine the two sports,” St. Preux said. “Both skill sets involve generating power and speed but I was trying too hard to make them the same. The biggest difference is the cardio aspect and once you get that everything comes together.
Following his victory over Joe Cason, St. Preux asked for Strikeforce to give him the opportunity to face former light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi. His wish was granted and the two men will square off this Saturday night.
“I was happy about it,” St. Preux explained about the match-up. “Typically when you call out someone, it doesn’t always work out where you’ll actually get the fight. It was one of those situations where I called him out and Strikeforce gave him to me. Now it’s my job to capitalize on that.”
Mousasi is considered one of MMA’s premiere strikers. The former two-divisional Dream champion has a nonchalant appearance that often lulls opponents into making mistakes. While wrestling has been Mousasi’s biggest weakness to date, St. Preux isn’t counting on it being the deciding factor in their fight.
“Everybody has particular weaknesses in their game,” St. Preux said. “Mousasi has even said he needs to work on his wrestling and from what I hear; it’s all he’s been working on lately. He’s definitely good at moving in and out and we have a particular game plan we’ve developed to control that aspect. He’s good at coming in when he needs to and capitalizing on people’s mistakes. Mousasi is hard to hit and he fades off very well.
“He combines his punches and kicks very well and he’s definitely an elusive fighter. Obviously I’m going to use all of my tools from striking, wrestling to jiu-jitsu and if it comes down to athleticism I’m going to use that too. I’m prepared for anything whether it the fight takes place on the feet or the ground.”
A victory over Mousasi would make it hard to deny St. Preux as one of the top light heavyweights under the Strikeforce banner. With the vacancy created by former champion Dan Henderson’s exodus to the UFC, the throne is there for the taking. While St. Preux feels a win would make his case, he chooses not to focus on the things he can’t control.
“I feel a win puts me in the title picture but it really doesn’t matter how I feel or what I think,” St. Preux said. “The ultimate decision will be made by the bosses. I think I would be due after this fight but I just have to wait to hear from the people who make those decisions. I can say what I want but they are the ones who cut my check and make the decisions.
“I go out there to put on exciting fights. I always want to have the type of fight where afterwards people are talking. I want people to say ‘who is that kid?’ and ‘did you see that fight last night?’ When you get people talking like that you’ve done your job well.”