Mani El-Hefnawy and Oguzhan Yalcin aren’t expecting any surprises when they meet Saturday night.
Having watched his recent fights and with the knowledge of Yalcin being a former Turkish national champion wrestler, El-Hefnawy, 20, said he knows Yalcin will be looking to take it to the mat early.
“He bases his game around his wrestling takedowns, and uses his striking as a setup for his takedowns,” said El-Hefnawy in an interview.
“I’m expecting a very takedown and wrestling-heavy fighter.”
On the flip side, Yalcin, 23, said he’s well aware of El-Hefnawy’s strength in the striking department.
With his last fight having been against another dangerous striker in Brandon Labrecque at BFL 63, Yalcin said what he took away from that matchup has allowed to him to better prepare for El-Hefnawy.
“He (Labrecque) had longer range than me and utilized a lot of kicks to try and slow me down in that fight,” said Yalcin in an interview.
“It prepared me for this one because now I have some clue how they can play that range game from far. I expect Mani will also try to slow me down with the kicks and keep that range safe.”
El-Hefnawy’s last bout was also against an opponent, Joshua Lam, who possessed a similar style to Yalcin, a matchup in which he used his superior striking to clinch a unanimous decision win.
El-Hefnawy said he believes he has a significant advantage on the feet, and will look to take advantage of it early.
“Yalcin doesn’t use striking for striking. He uses it to set up his wrestling takedowns,” said El-Hefnawy.
“I definitely feel I’m more well-rounded in that sense, and definitely feel I have a bigger edge in my striking.”
This will be El-Hefnawy’s first title shot of his young amateur career, an opportunity he earned via two unanimous decision wins in the BFL cage earlier this year.
El-Hefnawy said while his wins may have earned him the title shot on the surface, it’s the consistent hard work he puts in on a daily basis, with or without a fight lined up, that truly earned him a chance at the gold.
“I’m someone that doesn’t believe in only needing to train if I have a fight coming up. I’m proud of how consistent I am and how consistent I keep it,” said El-Hefnawy.
“Getting the title definitely adds more value to this fight, but this is the endless hours I put into training and preparing for this moment paying off.”
Being just three fights into his amateur career and having only been training MMA for three years, this is a spot Yalcin said he never expected to be in so soon.
But now that the moment has indeed arrived, Yalcin said he’s honoured to be competing for a championship.
“I was at BFL 56 watching the fights and had just started to train MMA. After watching the fights and seeing all these wrestling guys in there, I spoke to my coach and told him to get me in there and I will take care of the rest,” said Yalcin.
“It’s only been seven events since that conversation, and here we are in a title fight. I will get the belt, and I’m so happy with it.”
In addition to this being Yalcin’s first title fight, this will also be his first bout in which head strikes to a grounded opponent are allowed. This bout will be contested under advanced amateur rules where ground-and-pound to the head of a grounded opponent is now legal.
Yalcin said he believes the move to advanced amateur rules provides a big advantage to his style and game-plan, and is looking forward to implementing it for the first time.
“The reason all my fights have gone to decision is because I haven’t been allowed to punch on the ground. When I took all those guys down, I couldn’t punish them at all,” said Yalcin.
“The whole game’s going to change because once I take him down, I can look to finish him. It’s going to be more exciting.”
“I’d like to thank my coaches (Kajan Johnson, Ibby Ali, Michael Escalante, Nicholas Ugoalah, Justin Abdou), Catalyst Kinetics, Bernard Lee from Strike Recovery, Jamie Siraj, John Nguyen, Ali Wasuk, Alex Martinez, and all my other teammates at Tristar Vancouver.” Follow El-Hefnawy on social media: FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM
“I’d like to thank all my teammates and coaches.” Follow Yalćin on social media: INSTAGRAM