On less than two weeks notice, Tristan Connelly decided to step to the plate.
Vancouver’s Connelly (11-6) will battle Las Vegas’ own Zach Juusola (11-5) in a 160-pound catchweight bout at Final Fight Championship 36 in Las Vegas, NV on Thursday night.
Through doing his research, Connelly, normally a lightweight, said he expects Juusola to be a calm, patient, and relaxed striker, which is a style he said won’t do so well against him.
“He’s very good at waiting and countering, and fighting when you fight in his range. But that’s not how I fight,” said Connelly.
“I get in fighters faces and I put the pressure on. I think he’s going to have a hard time dealing with it.”
Throughout his career, Connelly, 33, has proven to be a finisher, with all 11 of his professional victories coming before the final bell, six of which were in the first round.
Connelly said there are many different ways he can see this fight playing out, and will be looking to take advantage of the first opening or weakness he sees.
“The fight starts on the feet, so I’m going to start on the feet. If I’m beating him on the feet, I’ll keep it there. If I’m having trouble or I see an opening to take him down, then I’ll take him down,” said Connelly.
“It’s mixed martial arts for a reason, and I’m a mixed martial artist. I feel like I can beat him anywhere. I think I’m going to finish him, but I know I’m going to beat him.”
Just three days ago, Connelly was in Ottawa, Ont. cornering his teammate, Cole Smith, for his UFC debut, a unanimous decision win over Mitch Gagnon. Prior to that, Connelly was also in Tokyo cornering Bibiano Fernandes for his One FC title fight.
While he doesn’t need any motivation to make it to the UFC himself, Connelly said being with Smith for fight week and seeing how everything is done behind the scenes did give him an extra surge of energy to make a push towards the big show.
“Seeing how these large organizations run everything and do everything, it’s really exciting and motivating, and makes me that much more hungry.”
Juusola More Than Prepared
Since learning Connelly would be his opponent, Juusola, 31, has been doing his homework. From looking up fight clips on YouTube to even purchasing a few of Connelly’s past fight pay-per-views, Juusola is doing it all.
After all the footage he’s now watched, Juusola said he feels his biggest advantage in this fight will be his vision, timing and scrambling.
“I’m probably one of the best scramblers around. You can go ask Julian Erosa, Kevin Lee, Sean Sherk, Jacob Volkmann, and Nik Lentz; they’ll tell you this guy is a monster,” said Juusola.
“I see everything. I got what it takes and I’m ready for this sh*t.”
When it comes to the striking department, Juusola said he and Connelly have very different styles.
Juusola said be brings more of a loose, snappy style of striking, while Connelly is more of a “pushy” striker.
“In between his pushy movements, I’m going to be able to take advantage and snap punches. When I hit him, it’s going to hurt. They won’t look like they hurt to the crowd, but they’ll cut him, they’ll break his nose, and they’ll rock him,” said Juusola.
“He’s going to feel I’m a complete fighter, and after the fight, he’s going to know I’m a bad mother f**ker.”
Throughout his career, Juusola has trained with some of the best fighters in the world, including Conor McGregor before he fought Nate Diaz for the second time, and Khabib Nurmagomedov while he was preparing for Tony Ferguson.
Juusola said if he can hold his own against the best in the world, there’s nothing Connelly can show him that he hasn’t already seen.
“If I can compete with these guys, there’s no way this little fu**ing nerd can compete with me,” said Juusola.
“I’ve knocked people out with slams before. He doesn’t have that kind of drive. He doesn’t have that kind of soul. He doesn’t have as much horsepower as me.”
“I’d like to thank everyone from my gym Checkmat Vancouver, The Sound Martial Arts, Revolution Martial Arts, Roll Jiu-Jitsu Academy, and Universal MMA. I’d also like to thank my sponsors Body Energy Club, Synergy Health Centre, and my wife.”
“I want to thank all my coaches and training partners, my family, my girlfriend, and to God for putting me in this place and being in my corner through everything.”