Tom O’Connor sticking to his identity in Unified MMA 44 matchup with John Nguyen

Tom O'Connor
Tom O’Connor in the cage at XFFC 18. (Photo by Joel Griffith/MMA Empire)

Unified MMA has finally arrived in Southern Alberta.

In the co-main event of Unified MMA 44 this Friday, top local prospects in Lethbridge, Alta.’s Tom O’Connor (9-2) and Calgary Alta.’s John Nguyen (4-2) will meet in a featherweight bout in Calgary.

O’Connor, 29, has learned over the years that focusing on himself is the most important part of preparation. He said he will make sure he doesn’t compromise his style on fight night while looking to press the action and take advantage of any openings.

“In my last fight, I was getting stuck behind the jab a little bit. I’m not going to let that happen again,” O’Connor said in an interview with MMA Empire.

“Another thing that I’ve learned from the last one is to really follow my identity. I can’t let another fighter change my approach too much, so right off the bat I’m going to lead the dance. I’m going to push forward and put it all together. I’m going to be a tsunami; that’s the essence of my game, just wave after wave crashing down until he breaks and gives me an opportunity.”

Most recently coming up short in the XFC lightweight tournament semifinals against Damonte Robinson, O’Connor is looking to showcase the improvements he’s made since that last outing.

Only two of O’Connor’s nine wins have come by judges decision and O’Connor knows the fastest way to move up the rankings is by getting a finish.

“I learned a lot from both XFC fights,” O’Connor said.

“Managing my energy and my pace better, and trying to implement a higher fight IQ are big things I’ve worked on. MMA is at the pinnacle, everyone keeps getting better. It’s insane how high-level a lot of guys are now and to get noticed you have to finish people. Getting good finishes is a big part of the game, it’s not just about winning.”

The perennial lightweight contender O’Connor will cut down to 145 pounds for the third time in his career this weekend.

The last few years injuries have curtailed the once steady rise of O’Connor, but he’s looking to jumpstart another run with a big performance this weekend.

“Every time it’s a little different because I haven’t been down there (145 pounds) too much. It definitely can be a tough cut,” O’Connor explained.

“This camp everything feels good. My body feels strong and healthy. Injuries in camp are something I’ve dealt with the last three or four years. My preparation wasn’t at a high enough level and it was leaving me susceptible to more injuries. I’ve been very disciplined, I feel good and I think this cut will be the best one yet.”

O’Connor was quick to point out the skills of his opponent as he prepares to make his 12th walk to the cage as a professional.

Although they’ve yet to cross paths on the mats, O’Connor has had the chance to study Nguyen in person on more than one occasion.

“Yeah, he’s really game and he’s super sharp on the feet,” O’Connor said.

“If we’re talking about attributes, he has really sick attributes, which I respect. He’s fast, has quick hands, he uses his range well and he has natural timing. I’ve had the opportunity to watch him fight a few times and I can’t wait to test my skills against his.”

This weekend Unified MMA has provided the fans with yet another high level Canadian matchup.

One of the most exciting featherweight fights on the regional scene so far this year will take place when the cage doors closes behind O’Connor and Nguyen.

“I’ve only fought in Southern Alberta once, so I’m really excited for this one,” O’Connor said.

“Plus John is another local guy, so the crowd should be hot. Both of us are on the rise and hunting for that top level spot moving forward into the big organizations. Perfect opportunity for us. It’s the co-main event in his hometown on UFC Fight Pass. He’s a game opponent and I think it’s going to be fun for us and for the fans.”

O’Connor’s shoutouts

“Progressive Fighting Academy, all my coaches, Dynamic MMA for the rounds and my sponsor Frontline Towing.” Follow O’Connor on social media: FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM

Fight preview brought to you by Lisa McInnes – Verico Paragon Mortgage Inc.