A fight against Rafael Lovato Jr. a year ago could pave the way to a big opportunity for Chris Honeycutt if the stars align over the next couple of months — but the first step is for the Fresno-based middleweight to overcome Costello Van Steenis.
Chris Honeycutt signed a four fight deal with Bellator not too long ago, and when it came down to it, there was really nowhere else he wanted to be. “Bellator takes care of me,” he told Cageside Press ahead of Bellator 210 on Friday night. His only complaint, if any, is staying active.
“I don’t fight enough,” he told use, but admitted that “probably 95% of all fighters, they don’t fight as much as they want. Because the fighter wants to fight all the time.” Of course they do, but promotions only have so many spots. “If it was up to me, I’d fight five months of the year, and I’d fight every three weeks,” said Honeycutt (11-2) as his second fight of 2018 loomed.
Honeycutt, not too long ago, was looking at building up to a title shot. Yet he came out on the wrong end of a scrap with Rafael Lovato Jr. last December. Lovato Jr. went on to pick up another win and earn a shot against champ Gegard Mousasi. Honeycutt’s fight with the BJJ ace didn’t go exactly according to plan, for a number of reasons.
The main takeaway was, he should have stayed more active. Instead, he perhaps played it a little safe, and it came back to haunt him. “The fact that he was never able to better his position in any way, it should kind of start falling into my advantage. Because now he’s got his back to the cage, and he couldn’t get off,” Honeycutt recalled of the bout. “He was trying to get off, he was trying get his back off the cage, but I was preventing him from doing that. Now there’s obvious reasons why I wasn’t pushing the pace, because I wasn’t feeling the greatest, but looking back on it, I still had more in the gas tank.”
Honeycutt would later reveal he was on antibiotics prior to the bout. More than one kind. Then probiotics. A mess really. But remember that talk about fighters wanting to fight? While he could have dropped out, he chose to stay the course.
“My biggest regret is not breaking away from him,” he continued. “I thought, you know what, you want to give me an easy 10-9 round, you just want to hang out against the cage, I’ll take the free round. And then I’ll put the pressure on you in the later rounds, and you do the work.”
“It was a good game plan I had, I just didn’t do as much action as I should have.” And in the end, that allowed Lovato to take the win, and move on to the title. Honeycutt got back in line, but bounced back nicely in July with a unanimous decision win over Leo Leite.
Enter Costello Van Steenis. While Van Steenis (10-1) might not be a household name, he’s built up a bit of steam heading into Bellator 210, with four straight wins, and finishes in his first two fights in the promotion. Honeycutt was less interested in the who than the when, however. “I only fought once this year, so I was asking my manager and begging him to at least get two fights this year.”
Reiterating that Bellator has taken good care of him, some of the activity issues have boiled down to bad luck. A fight with Kendal Grove fell through after Honeycutt defeated Kevin Casey last year, due to medical issues. That put him on the shelf for a while, then the Lovato fight didn’t go his way. He bounced back against Leo Leite in July at Bellator 202, and urged his manager to get him booked so he could get “at least get one more in before the year changes, at least for financial reasons.”
Basically he harassed his way into the fight, Honeycutt joked, only, “I don’t harass Bellator directly, I harass my manager.”
As to what he’s expecting from Van Steenis, who has two straight TKOs in Bellator, “I expect him to be on the receiving end of a TKO this time.” Honeycutt feels a couple of good camps gives him an edge.
“I just came off two camps, not necessarily back-to-back because there was a little bit of a gap in there, but I came off camp for Rafael Lovato, who is arguably the best jiu-jitsu practitioner in the world,” he explained. Then, the next camp, against another solid grappler. “Leo Leite is no slouch himself.”
I’m a different breed than he’s been fighting. He hasn’t fought a wrestler at my level before.”
Being able to go from those, to his current camp, Honeycutt feels his opponent’s jiu-jitsu “doesn’t match up with my previous two opponents. So it’s a combination of training and being very very sharp, on my end.” He recognizes Costello van Steenis has some solid stand-up, but he’s more like a Dutch kickboxer style. “Typically, those shots you can see coming.” The kicks will hurt, regardless of whether he checks the kick or not, so for Honeycutt, the plan is, “when I’m working, I’m in, when I’m not, I’m on the outside.”
And while being wary of those low kicks, he’ll do what he does best. “I grind people out, and I take advantage of them once they’re more worried about their lungs.”
“I’m a different breed than he’s been fighting. He hasn’t fought a wrestler at my level before,” said Honeycutt. He’s feels Van Steenis may “circle away, fight from the outside.” And if he does that, he may be setting the table for Honeycutt to find a finish. “I think there’s a good chance I might get my first actual knockout in this fight too. Because if he does that, then he’s going into my heavy punches.”
Honeycutt is currently in search of a new gym, as his current home base in Fresno recently dismantled. In the meantime, he’s checked out Strong Style out in Clevehand (home to Stipe Miocic), which he spoke highly of, but is hoping to check out a few more before making a decision. That’s first on the agenda after Bellator 210. But with a win over Van Steenis, ‘The Cutt’ is “hoping that Lovato gets the win over Mousasi,” at Bellator 214 in January, so that he has a case to challenge for the title against a fighter he put in a valiant effort against. “I got a good chance of getting that first title shot” should that happen, he finished.
Bellator 210 takes place Friday, November 30 at the WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma. The preliminary card airs right here on Cageside Press followed by the main card on the Paramount Network.