EXCLUSIVE | Makovsky, Sampo Could Be Sleeper Hit Of UFC 170 – And They Both Tell Us Why
A fight that could steal the spotlight just barely made it to the televised prelims.
But a disgruntled eye can look no further than the first fight of the prelims when two budding flyweights could dazzle in front of several yet-filled seats.
No. 10 ranked Zach Makovsky will face Josh Sampo in a showdown that easily could propel the victor within shouting distance of a title fight.
“This is a fight we both wanted,” Makovsky said. “Skill set-wise, he is as similar to me as anyone I have ever fought. Because of that it could go anywhere, anyhow. It’s going to be a difficult battle wherever it goes. But I think I can be a little shaper, and a little faster, and a little stronger.”
On one week’s notice, Sampo made his UFC debut in December when he tapped out Ryan Benoit at the TUF 18 finale which garnered Fight of the Night honors.
“This is going to be a very cerebral fight,” Sampo said. “He’s a southpaw stance, which is something we have not faced yet. He’s a very game opponent and a very likeable guy but I’m still looking forward to punching him in the face.”
A 30-year-old Pennsylvania native, Makovsky (17-4) has won 11 of his last 13 and is rightfully lauded for his wrestling ability. “Fun Size’s” last lost came in December of 2012 in a split decision with Anthony Leone.
Makovsky, a former Bellator bantamweight champion and RFA flyweight champ, entered the UFC with fanfare after his December win over veteran Scott Jorgensen by unanimous decision. The Jorgensen victory came less than a month after Makovsky beat Matt Manzanares for the RFA title in his organizational debut. That run helped put the former Drexel University wrestler front and center when it came to naming top prospects in the burgeoning 125-pound division.
“Having success in the other organizations was a huge part of my career,” Makovsky said. “But anyone who competes in MMA wants to fight for the UFC. I just keep resetting my goals and upping my standards. Now it’s about making a run at a title and seeing how far I can take this.”
Sampo (11-2) has won five straight and eight of his last nine. “The Gremlin’s” last loss came at the hands of Will Campuzano in May of 2012 when Campuzano caught Sampo with a knee for a KO in the third round of a fight Sampo was clearly leading on the scorecards.
Makovsky took note of Sampo’s two-fight stint at CFA where he won the flyweight title over Alexis Villa and then successfully defended it against a game Sam Thao.
“I saw him fight Alexis Villa in the CFA and (Villa) is a great athlete and wrestler,” Makovsky said. “We knew then that Sampo was someone to look at.”
It’s hard to deny the similarities between the two, even outside the cage. Both earned degrees with an emphasis in biology and both coach high school wrestling.
“He matches well with me in all aspects of MMA, Sampo said. “He has very disciplined striking with very good wrestling and I think a purple belt in jiu-jitsu if not higher than that now.
“The (Jorgensen) win helped push him up the ladder quite fast and the fact that I get to fight him next is an extreme blessing. We were looking to fight him before we were both in the UFC so this is a fight that we’ve been looking for.”
UFC 170 Fight Card:
Main Card (PPV)
Ronda Rousey vs. Sara McMann
Daniel Cormier vs. Pat Cummins
Rory MacDonald vs. Demian Maia
Mike Pyle vs. T.J. Waldburger
Robert Whittaker vs. Stephen Thompson
Preliminary Card (FS1)
Alexis Davis vs. Jessica Eye
Raphael Assuncao vs. Pedro Munhoz
Cody Gibson vs. Aljamain Sterling
Zach Makovsky vs. Josh Sampo
Preliminary Card (Fight Pass)
Rafaello Oliveira vs. Erik Koch
Ernest Chavez vs. Yosdenis Cedeno