CAPE TOWN - In mixed martial arts, as in all sports, strategies can be as complex as they are varied. But for Martin van Staden, strategy doesn’t extend much further than the three words “knock him out”.
And that’s exactly what Van Staden intends to do on Saturday night, when he steps into the cage with England’s Gavin Hughes for the EFC’s coveted lightweight title.
“I don’t need to take the fight anywhere. He is going to be the one looking to take it to the ground,” Van Staden said, when asked about his game plan for the bout.
“I don’t shoot for take downs. I try and knock my opponents out. After I hit him with just one of my strikes, whichever one, he is not going to want anything to do with me standing and he will look for the takedown.
“Then he is going to be in a whole other world trouble.”
It’s clear that Van Staden has unshakable confidence in his knockout power, but he also has reason to be confident. The 35-year-old has finished nine of his 15 EFC fights by either KO or TKO; using accurate, well-timed and heavy-handed boxing to put his opponents away.
Though Van Staden is mostly praised for the power of his strikes, his biggest strengths are the variety and aggression of his boxing, and his willingness to brawl or pick his punches more selectively depending on what’s needed.
Against Hughes, Van Staden’s range maybe his biggest weapon. The South African has a five centimetre height advantage and his superior reach could be the telling factor on Saturday night.
The South African will be looking for his fourth consecutive win at lightweight, after dropping down a division following back to back narrow losses in welterweight title fights against Gareth Buirski and Dricus du Plessis.
However, Hughes (9W, 0D, 0L) has other ideas. The Liverpudlian hopes to sign for the UFC as soon as possible and, with the organisation set to host its first ever event in Liverpool in May, snatching the title from one of the most decorated lightweights outside of Europe and the US is the perfect way to catch the attention of the UFC’s matchmakers.
“I know I’ll break this lad because he has quit so many times,” Hughes told the Liverpool Echo recently, alluding to the six submission defeats on Van Staden’s record. “For someone who has quit that much then you can make him quit again.”
Van Staden, who has never been knocked out, has promised to make Hughes eat his words, along with a good helping of glove leather on Saturday night.
“I don’t know what fight he watched where I have quit. Quitting and being submitted is not the same thing. I don’t know where I have ever quit in any of my fights,” he said.
“On fight night I’m going to show you who is going to quit. I’ll show the world who is going to quit. After I hit him on his chin, he’s going to look for a way out.”
EFC 68 will also see Las Vegas-based former lightweight champion Dave Mazany continue his journey back to title contention against South African MMA pioneer Chris Bright.
Mazany lost his title via second round submission against Don Madge, Van Staden’s teammate, who went on to vacate the title after being signed by the UFC.
Should the Extreme Couture fighter succeed, he will likely become the first to challenge Van Staden or Hughes for the strap.