Mac Danzig: From King of the Cage to “Must Win” at UFC 109
It’s a long, hard fall from being King of the Cage. Mac Danzig should know. The Colorado promotion’s lightweight champion was on an impressive 7-0 streak from 2005-2006 before a loss to Clay French at KOTC: Hard Knocks in January 2007, and a subsequent loss to Hayuto Sakurai in Pride, derailed his momentum. Looking to make a change, the Cleveland-born and strictly vegan fighter made a decision that seemed to clash with his seemingly easy-going personality: he joined the cast of The Ultimate Fighter, thereby subjecting himself to the stressful environment of “The House” and its 15 other inhabitants.
Six weeks training with a new group of fighters and coach Matt Hughes’s tutelage all helped Danzig return to his winning ways as he submitted all four of his opponents in the reality show tournament to win the six-figure UFC contract. For his official debut, he subbed Mark Bocek via rear-naked choke in the third round at UFC 83 and looked to have the jiu-jitsu acumen needed to hang in an unbelievably stacked UFC lightweight division.
This was all in April 2008. A few months later, on September 19, he drew Clay Guida for UFC Fight Night: Diaz vs. Neer. Danzig used some superior striking to sting Guida in the first round, but “The Carpenter” kept coming and out-wrestled Danzig for the rest of the fight en route to a unanimous decision victory. Fast-forward to February 2010: Danzig has since dropped two more fights to Josh Neer via triangle choke at Fight Night 17 and Jim Miller via unanimous decision at UFC 100 last July. Given the importance of The Ultimate Fighter to the UFC, winning the TUF series earns you a little extra rope. For Danzig, however, a loss at UFC 109: Relentless against Justin Buchholz may just be the end of that rope.
This fight makes for a particularly interesting match up since Buchholz is coming in sporting a losing streak of his own – back-to-back losses to Terry Etim (d’arce choke) and Jeremy Stephens (TKO via cut). If this were the WWE, it might be called a “You’re Fired!” match or something equally colorful given their current situations and how competitive and deep the division is. Both Danzig and Buchholz have solid ground games but are not particularly known for their knockout power. With the fight being broadcast on Spike TV (the last prelims shown on the network earned 1.5 million pairs of eye balls), this could be the grand stage Danzig has been looking for to get a big win and get back on track.
Danzig has stated that the birth of his daughter gave him a “new perspective” and more “motivation to do right by his family and his career.” Even in defeat, Danzig went the distance with Guida (and his seemingly bottomless gas tank) and Miller, who’s currently on an impressive three-fight winning streak. The submission loss to Neer also came with “Fight of the Night” honors so it seems that, given these strong performances, the motivation is still there. It’s just a matter of Danzig getting back to his previous form and finishing fights. Saturday night we’ll see if he can do it again.