Before I say anything, let me first convey my utmost respect and admiration for Joey Beltran. He has a jaw carved from a fire hydrant, and the heart of a goliath. After trimming down to 205, he looked faster, and better than ever. He has the mentality of a true warrior, and I hope that the UFC brass will give him an opportunity for redemption after his hard fought loss this evening.
With that being said…
OMG. WTF. LOL…whatever acronyms you prefer to text to convey absolute astonishment. I will be the first to admit that I haven’t paid that much attention to James Te Huna. As a matter of fact, I picked Beltran for the upset, anticipating that his durable jaw would allow him to outlast the relative newcomer, Te Huna, who hasn’t really seen deep water. I figured that James would fire early, trying to put Beltran away, and gas himself in the process.
Wow, was I wrong or what?!?
Aside from the physical differences, the first thing about Te Huna that struck me was his unwavering, absolute, composure. As a relative newcomer, Te Huna was facing a tried and true veteran of the sport and organization. Rather than show jitters at a “gatekeeper” fight, Te Huna displayed a Chuck Liddell-like surety.
As the fight took off, Te Huna found a home for his right hand, over and over. His shots were crisp, clean, and varied. Something tickled at the back of my mind, but it took me a moment to grasp it: He was fighting like a 205 pound version of the current heavy weight champ, Junior dos Santos.
As the rounds progressed, Te Huna became more and more varied in his striking style. He was throwing light strikes mixed with heavy strikes. Slow strikes mixed with flurries. It was almost “Diaz”-esque. That right hand, landing again, and again. Anyone that was not Beltran would have succumbed to those strikes. Beltran’s best weapon, his jab, did find a home on Te Huna’s chin, late in the second round, staggering him. Rather than succumb, however, he immediately transitioned into a double leg, pushing Beltran against the fence for the final seconds of the second round.
Yes, Te Huna started to show some fatigue in the third round, but how could you punch someone in the face that many times and not be tired? Te Huna even managed to set a UFC record for most significant blows landed in a fight (226 significant strikes in a fight.)
I remember the first time that I saw Johnny “Bones” Jones fight against Stephan Bonnar. I watched, in awe, and knew that he would be the champ. Sooner, rather than later.
I feel that same sensation, now. Is he ready, at this moment? No. But given a little time, a little more experience?
Te Huna will be a champion; it’s just a matter of when.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC