The MMA world has evolved greatly from the early days where each combatant was a one-dimensional specialist. Although fighters still have their preferred tendencies that Bruce Buffer rattles off with their record and height, each truly is a mixed martial artist in the truest sense of the world. Still, occasionally, we run into an relic of an older time – someone who gravitates so heavily towards one art, that it is pretty much all they are known for. This weekend, Chris Daukaus finds himself across the cage from such a foe.
At 43-years old, Aleksei Oleinik is quite literally that relic from an earlier time – he had his first professional fight before some of the UFC roster was born. Not only that, but in his career that has spanned 74 fights, he’s picked up 46 submission victories and continues to shock people with his specialty submissions. Still, if you ask Daukaus, who is a jiu jitsu black belt in his own right, he’s not afraid of that ground game.
“It’s a mixed martial arts fight – I’m not afraid to go to the ground with him. I feel that my skill set would favor the stand up and his would favor, obviously, the clinch and the ground game,” Daukaus said. “I’m not concerned about getting taken down. If I get taken down, I have the skill set to either get back up or properly defend.”
In addition to feeling like he can fend off all that the Russian brings, Daukaus is ready to bring a little of the action himself. Although his advantage is the feet, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t considered mixing it up.
“Don’t be surprised if I’m attacking for submissions during this fight. Everyone is saying how great his ground game is and he’s proven that, but I just think that I can compete with, honestly, any of the heavyweights in the division and at their own game,” he said.
Some of the confidence he has regarding the ground is due to the aforementioned black belt and his stable of quality training partners. Some it also comes from the fact that grappling has been the primary focus of his training for every recent fight camp.
“I’m going to say 85-90% of my fight camp is grappling and wrestling. So I rarely spend a lot of time specifically striking and that’s I guess what kind of throws a lot of people off when the fights come around,” he said, making reference to the back-to-back first round KOs that have kicked off his UFC career. “I just let my hands go because it’s fun – it’s the reason why people watch heavyweight.”
And it’s that duality of Daukaus that he feels has him on an inevitable collision course with the top of the heavyweight division. With hands that can put anyone away in an instant and his impressive ground game, he feels that he is nearly alone in the division in terms of well-roundedness.
“I think I fill a lot of the voids that are present in the heavyweight division. If you look at the heavyweight champion, Stipe [Miocic], he’s extremely well-rounded. He had great cardio, he has great boxing. He’s got a great chin and when he gets on top and stays heavy, he’s like a house on top. There’s really no one else in the division like that,” he said making note of heavy punchers like Ngannou and Rozenstruik, as well as grapple-first types like Blaydes. “I just think I’m right there with Stipe in the fact that my game is extremely well-rounded where I can definitely make a run at this.”
While some might say a comparison to the champ is unwarranted just two fights into his UFC career, Daukaus has always felt this way. Plus, with a date to kick off the year against the #10 heavyweight in the world, the path for him to the belt seems to be taking shape.
“I’m realistically looking to fight three or four times this year and then we’ll just see where that takes me,” he said. “Definitely finish out the year in the top 5, if not that number 2 or number 1 contender spot and setting up 2022 for that title shot.”
You can see Daukaus take the next step towards fulfilling his prediction as part of the ESPN+ main card of this weekend’s UFC Vegas 19.
You can also hear the entire audio of this interview at 2:45.