Although it may not be under the UFC banner, Friday night’s bantamweight title bout at TKO 44 has all the makings of a UFC matchup.
Jesse Arnett (15-4) will defend his TKO bantamweight title for the second time, while also looking to stretch his current win streak to 13-straight, versus the undefeated American Nathan Maness (9-0).
With the strength of both their resumes leading into this fight, Arnett, 34, said a victory for either he or Maness should be enough for a chance on MMA’s biggest stage.
“I think the winner of this will fight in the big show for sure,” said Arnett in an interview.
“But although it’s nice to talk about a win, I have to worry about this kid first. At the end of the day, he’s 9-0, he’s undefeated, and he believes in himself too.”
Although he hasn’t stepped in the cage since his successful title defence in May at TKO 43 against Sebastian Ruiz, Arnett said this summer has been all business for him, and not much down time.
Arnett spends his training hours with multiple coaches at multiple gyms, and said he doesn’t believe Maness will be able to show him anything he’s yet to see in training.
“He’s not going to kick harder than Jake Peacock, he’s not going to have better boxing than Devin Reti, and he’s not going to be a better grappler than the guys at Tilt MMA,” said Arnett.
“I’ve seen it all in the gym, I’ve seen it all this summer, and if he can show me something different, I will shake his hand in the middle of the ring. But this isn’t the kid to stop me.”
Entering this contest, Arnett has finished six of his last seven fights via submission, with the exception being a majority decision win over Johnny Bedford.
Whether it’s by submission or by knockout, Arnett said he expects his run of finishes to continue Friday night.
“I can’t see him getting into the third round. I just can’t see it,” said Arnett.
“It’ll either be a guillotine choke from him shooting out of desperation, or I’m going to get that clean knockout that I so deserve, that I’ve been working so hard to get, and that I’m capable of. I’ve got heavy hands, I’ve got great power, and I’ve got good speed.”
Maness Confident in Striking
However, Arnett won’t be the only one looking to end the fight on the feet as Maness, 27, said he’s also looking to add to his current pair of career wins by knockout.
Maness, fighting out of Henderson, KY, said although he feels he can do some serious damage on the mat from top position, he believes he has the power and speed to end the fight on the feet.
“We’re looking to hurt him standing. I know he’s going to enjoy that and I know he likes to get in some brawls and throw a little bit, but I think my power translates pretty well at 135,” said Maness in an interview.
“If I can put one of these hands on his chin, I think we can do something, so I hope that’s how it goes.”
While Maness will be looking to end the fight standing, he said he’s well aware of the dangers Arnett poses in the jiu-jitsu realm when he’s on top.
Maness said one of the keys in this matchup will be avoiding Arnett’s takedowns and not finding himself in a position where Arnett can utilize his submissions.
“As long as I’m not off my back and I can defend the takedowns, which I feel I have a pretty good takedown defence, I’m not really worried about his chokes,” said Maness.
“As far as submissions off his back, he’ll have to really show me something there because I haven’t seen any footage of him doing it.”
Although Maness has yet to taste defeat, he said he knows the toughest test of his career will be presented by Arnett, who he said “should be in the UFC.”
As is this case with most MMA fighters, Maness has his sights set on the UFC for his future, and believes a win over Arnett in their UFC-caliber fight, plus a successful title defence should earn him a shot in the sport’s biggest promotion.
“Getting this win is the big one, then defend the belt, and I really couldn’t say why I wouldn’t get signed at that point. I’m still young and I’d have an undefeated record of 11-0. ” said Maness.
“Hopefully we can put together two finishes, and that’ll be the next step.”
“I want to thank all my teammates at Tilt MMA, all my teammates at Bowmont Boxing, and all my teammates at Dunamis. I also want to thank Anderson Goncalves, Jake Peacock, and Doug Harder.”
“I’d like to thank my sponsors B&N Construction, Baker Chiropractic, Max’s Custom Completions, and Allen’s Lawn Service, who’ve been helping me out through this training camp.”