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Steve Cantwell Focuses on Jiu-Jitsu for UFC 97 Bout With Luis Cane

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Cantwell_mediumSteve Cantwell, a committed and very underrated technician, believes the key to victory Saturday will be utilizing his BJJ against the extremely durable Brazilian:

Q: How do you break down Luis Cane from a technical standpoint?

He throws big, hard punches and kicks from the left side. So I've just go to avoid his left and see how good his ground game is.

When you fought Brian Stann, you beat him by playing the angles and mixing up your strikes a lot. how likely are we to see that sort of game plan again?

A: They're actually a lot alike, but Brian Stann is right-handed and Luis Cane is southpaw. So as far as my strategy on the feet goes, same strategy, (but) different combinations that I'm looking for, as far as right-handed versus southpaw. ... I'm definitely going to put him on his back and see how he works from there.

Notably, Cantwell says for light heavyweight division the BJJ talent is comparatively weak and that will give him a leg up:

Speaking of smooth, you probably have one of the smoother ground games among the light heavyweights. It seems like lately the 205-pounders have been dominated by guys who like to stay on their feet. As you try to progress through the division, how much do you think you might be helped by the fact that you're a little different from most of these guys who are strikers?

I'm willing to strike too. By no means am I going to rush it to the ground. I'm not afraid to stand up with anybody.

But yeah, I think a lot of guys are looking past jiu-jitsu in that division. You're 100% right about that. In the other divisions — 170, 185, even heavyweight — you see a lot of good jiu-jitsu guys. But right now at 205, you don't see too many guys with a real solid ground game. I mean, there's a handful, but I think it's probably one of the weaker points of the division as a whole.

So I plan on training my jiu-jitsu every day, as hard as I can, and putting it to the test.

Part of the issue is the power of the light heavyweights to end fights striking more regularly than lightweight or featherweight fighters. But historically, BJJ has typically been more of a smaller man's game. There are not only more competitors in the lighter weights (and that's a separate issue of better athletes gravitating to stick and ball sports), but the game often suits players who are more mobile, particularly in no gi. Obviously there are a host of superb grapplers at any weight class and even decent competitors at every professional grappling level, but when 220lbs men are able to add punches, kicks and GNP to their arsenal, a focus on jiu-jitsu can wane.

As for the fight itself, both are technical and durable, but clearly Cantwell is the more technical of two while Cane's toughness is downright outrageous. Cantwell likely believes banging with Cane is a more risky affair that will require a significantly higher output thus making the fight a BJJ battle the more logical choice. This fight isn't setting the MMA world on fire, but it has the makings to be rewarding for hardcore and casual fans alike.