JARED HUIZENGA – SUN SAILOR NEWSPAPERS
Last year around this time there were many mixed martial arts “experts” questioning whether Nik Lentz had a future in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
After starting his UFC career with 5 wins, 0 losses and 1 draw, the Plymouth resident was in the midst of a two-fight losing streak in the promotion’s lightweight (155 pounds) division. Those losses followed a no decision, which was initially declared a loss, but was overturned due to an opponent’s illegal knee strike.
But now, after a weight class change and two dominant performances, the Bloomington Jefferson graduate and former University of Minnesota wrestler has vaulted to No. 7 featherweight (145 pounds) fighter in the world, according to fightmatrix.com.
Lentz used his superior wrestling and grappling skills along with an effective ground and pound strategy to walk away from the Jan. 19 “UFC of FX 7: Belfort vs. Bisping” card with another dominant victory and a shot at being in the title mix very soon.
Lentz, who came into the fight as the No. 21 featherweight in the world, was matched against Brazilian fighter Diego Nunes, who was ranked No. 6 in the world.
Lentz wasted no time taking control of the fight, scoring five takedowns in the opening round and landing 63 of 70 strikes, compared to the four strikes thrown by his opponent – only of those landed.
In the second round, Nunes stopped Lentz’s first takedown attempt and landed a couple of strikes and later knocked him down near the end of the round, In between those shots; however, it was all Lentz. After missing on his first takedown attempt, he later scored one and landed 85 of 97 strikes.
The third and final round was again all Lentz as he landed 57 of 67 strikes and scored 4 of his 9 takedown attempts. The only time Lentz seemed to be in any danger was in the closing seconds of the fight. Nunes escaped to his feet and unleashed a flurry of desperate punches, hoping they would connect to score a knockout – the only chance he had to win the fight. Although he absorbed a few of those shots, Lentz was able to again gain control of Nunes and ride out the final few seconds to a unanimous decision victory.
In all, Lentz landed 205 of 234 strikes in the fight, compared to Nunes’ 19 of 33, according to fightmetric.com, a MMA statistics site. The site also noted that Lentz was 10 of 21 on takedown attempts, while Nunes did not attempt a takedown. Neither fighter attempted a submission.
To the dismay of the crowd, the judges scored the fight 30-27, 30-28 and 30-27 in Lentz’s favor.
While Nunes’ countrymen didn’t like the outcome of the fight, which was held in São Paulo, Nunes acknowledged he was beaten by the better fighter in the cage prior to the decision being announced.
Beaten and exhausted, Nunes attempted to lift Lentz into the air to congratulate him on the victory – he was barely able to get him off the ground. While the gesture didn’t work out as well as he’d planned, the sentiment behind it was still there.
The victory skyrocketed Lentz up to No. 7 on Fight Matrix’s Top-10 list behind notable names including UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, Bellator Fighting Championship featherweight champion Pat Curran and top contenders Cub Swanson and Dennis Siver.
Prior to his previous fight – last August against Elji Mitsuoka – Lentz made the switch to the lighter weight class, left the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy to become a part of Florida-based American Top Team and enlisted the help of nutritionist Mike Dolce to help him make weight while retaining his strength.
The changes paid off as Lentz earned a first-round technical knockout victory against Mitsuoka – his first UFC knockout.
Lentz’s professional record now stands at 23-5-2 with 1 no contest, including a 7-2-1 with 1 no contest in the UFC.
Contact Jared Huizenga at [email protected]