Ryan LaFlare returns to the octagon this weekend at UFC Atlantic City for the first time since his knockout loss to Alex Oliveira in Long Island last Summer — and he’s both focused, and looking for the finish.
Atlantic City, NJ — In hockey, we tend to say that a player on a scoring slump is squeezing his stick too tight. Trying too hard, in other words. Maybe that’s the case for UFC welterweight Ryan LaFlare (13-2), who had a perfect finishing rate outside the UFC — but has won nothing but decisions since joining the promotion. It’s an apt comparison, perhaps, given the Stanely Cup Playoffs are currently underway, with the New Jersey Devils taking part. LaFlare, a New Yorker, is in Atlantic City, New Jersey this week ahead of his UFC Fight Night 128 scrap with Alex Garcia this weekend. Rest assured, he’ll be looking for the finish.
The lack of finishes hasn’t hurt LaFlare’s success any, as the former CompuStrike employee has managed to headline a card against Demian Maia, and ultimately owns a 6-2 record in the promotion. Still, the lack of a finish during his UFC tenure does nag at him.
“It definitely nags at me, a hundred percent,” he told Cageside Press at Thursday’s UFC Atlantic City media day. “I remember my first two fights, being like ‘what the hell, I’m not finishing in the UFC.’ Then people started calling me ‘the Decisionator.'” That unfortunate nickname led of a feeling that it was “okay to just win these rounds.” Something LaFlare admits isn’t a good thing. Still, “if you watch my fights, I’m an exciting fighter. I’m not just a patient fighter looking to get the win. I’m out there trying to fight, I’m out there trying to win decisively and trying to finish the guy.”
In his defense, LaFlare points out that “ninety percent of the guys I’ve fought in the UFC were either ranked or have been ranked in the past. I’m not fighting scrubs.”
“Everybody I’m fighting at least was ranked at one point in their career,” he continued. “There’s not many guys that can say that, their entire UFC career. I’m coming up on nine, ten fights. I’m fighting good guys, I want to finish them, I’m going to try to finish them, but me not getting caught and not making bad mistakes is more important right now.”
LaFlare has come a long way from his Compustrike days. Headlining a card, compiling an impressive record against a number of tough outs — it’s one of those situations that has a dreamlike quality to it. Looking back, he agrees it is a little crazy. “Yeah,” LaFlare said on coming such a long way, though “it seems like a short time, because I only have nine or ten fights, but I’ve been in the UFC since 2013. I’ve been around this sport for a very long time.”
Still, “it is a little surreal to me,” he continued, “but my goals are always to be at the top. I always knew I would be there. I’m that type of person, if I’m not succeeding at something, I’m not doing it anymore. So I have to keep doing it until I’m at the top. You’re always going to see Ryan LaFlare until I’m at the top.”
The next step in that journey comes against Alex Garcia on Saturday. Garcia has been training with Canada’s famed TriStar, and heads into UFC Atlantic City off a win over Muslim Salikhov in Shanghai late last year.
“What-star?” LaFlare cracked when asked about his opponent’s training camp. “I’m just kidding. TriStar is obviously a big camp.” As for the fight Saturday, “how’s it go down? I think I’m more of an elite striker. I’m an elite grappler. I’m faster, I’m bigger, I’m longer. I think there’s a lot of things that can play out to me being the better fighter. My conditioning is one of my best tools.”
It’s something that had been pointed out as a weakness of Garcia. “That’s something that he lacks in.” Ultimately, said LaFlare “I think it could play out with me finishing him on the feet, or me taking him down and finishing him on the ground, but at the end of the day, it’s going to be me getting my hand raised.”
Ryan LaFlare vs. Alex Garcia serves as the featured prelim at UFC Fight Night 128 (UFC Atlantic City), this Saturday, April 21 at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ. Both the televised prelims and main card air live on Fox Sports 1.