UFC debutante Jake Hecht entered his UFC 140 bout with Rich Attonito as nearly a 2-to-1 underdog in sports books. If Hecht's victory had betters caught off guard, his method likely left the masses completely flabbergasted. As Hecht told Bloody Elbow Radio, the shock didn't end with those outside the cage when his sharp elbows on the shooting Attonito dropped the ATT fighter.
"I was really surprised," Hecht said. "I felt him slump and I just jumped on the opportunity."
Attonito wasn't the only one feeling the pain of Hecht's short but powerful blows, but with his time in the cage lasting just over a round, Hecht will gladly take a sore joint to the alternative.
"My elbow is still really sore," Hecht said, "but better my elbow than my face.
"My last fight out I broke my right hand in the third round and that sucked."
It's not uncommon for a fighter to enter their UFC debut with a mental image of the perfect fight, but as Hecht quickly learned even the best laid plans can be quickly tossed out the window against UFC-level opposition. Hecht came out with the intention of softening Attonito up with leg kicks to set up later takedowns, only to see the kicks backfire.
"The gameplan was to attack that lead leg," Hecht said. "Be it with inside leg kicks or outside leg kicks, then we were going to see how things went in the later rounds as he got tired and I'd worked on that leg a bit more.
"Of course, it didn't go that way with him taking me down off one of those leg kicks, then introducing the wrestling when he shot in the second round."
Rather than allow the difficult start to his UFC career to frustrate him, however, when he and Attonito met on simultaneous shots in the second, Hecht reached back to a move he learned the effectiveness of the hard way - on the receiving end from fellow recent UFC-signing Che Mills.
"I fought Che Mills last October," Hecht said. "I spent fifteen minutes like Rich, in on the legs trying to take him down. He must have hit me with 50 or 60 of those, and I remembered how much that sucked and how much it cut my head open, so that's what I was looking for there.
"I think the elbow just got put in the right place."
Hecht discusses why he moved from Missouri to Ireland, the Irish fight scene and the experience of fighting before royalty after the jump.
The elbows to Attonito's head landed with short swings, indicating a great deal of power in Hecht's striking game, however the former collegiate wrestler tries not to view himself as a specialized fighter.
"I would not say that Muay Thai is my forte," Hecht explained, "but I do try to stay as well-rounded as possible and we did work a lot of stand up for this fight."
With a recent move across the Atlantic to his current home in Ireland, however, Hecht looks forward to the chance to work on his striking even more, beyond roots which saw him win a Missouri Golden Gloves title the same year he qualified for states in wrestling.
"I fought for an organization called Cage Warriors last October," Hecht said. "They were impressed with my style and offered me a coaching job, and I jumped at the opportunity. I've been over here since February and I'm loving every minute of it.
"The MMA scene is just catching on over here. When I first took this job the guys told me I'd have a chance to be a pioneer of MMA. For every MMA gym I'd say there's ten boxing or Muay Thai gyms."
In addition to the chance to learn from the many skilled strikers in the Emerald Isle, Hecht's American wrestling and Brazilian jiu jitsu pedigree offers a unique opportunity for those he trains, and his students are already seeing the benefits.
"The game is really still developing over here," Hecht said. "It's different than in the states, where you have amateur and pro. Here you break it down into classes, with D class, C class, B class and A class.
"D-class is no head shots, so it's glorified grappling. C-class would be comparable to amateur, and A-class would be a pro competition. I have guys at all the different levels. The great thing about being over here with having wrestled so long is it gives us a great advantage to focus on the take downs and the take down defense."
Although fighting with the same organization which saw him move to Ireland in his last pre-UFC bout, Hecht's fight took place not in the UK or Ireland, but in Jordan before the Royal Family.
"It was crazy because five miles one way you have this coliseum built in 180 AD," Hecht recalled, "but then you go 10 minutes north and you're in a super strip mall with a JC Penny's in it.
"The fans there were something else. It was kind of like an original UFC card where guys were just world champion kick boxers, or world champion wrestlers, so it was a comparison of styles. So it was great to watch in the beginning, but you talk about some loyal fans, there was nearly a riot in the stands."
While the fans in Toronto may not have rioted, they still left a strong impression on Hecht.
"I'd never been to Toronto but I was very pleased with the fans," Hecht said. "I've never seen fans more into MMA."
Everything about his first UFC experience was great for Hecht, even if "UFC Babysitter to the Stars" Burt Watson did get on him when he first weighed in, unaware that a high weight in the early part of a week is just part of the routine. Hecht drinks lots of water before cutting, allowing him to drop his weight fast and put it back on faster after weigh-ins to enter the cage around 195-lbs.
"A lot of people in Ireland were teasing me," Hecht laughed. "They said they've never seen somebody that happy on their way to the cage. It was just that the week was so great I felt like nothing was going to go wrong."
With his first fight on the big stage in the rear view mirror, along with his first UFC stoppage, Hecht had even more to be happy about as he walked away from the cage.