From the very first moment Patrick Cummins set foot inside the Octagon, he was destined to be a perennial underdog and spoiler.
A journeyman wrestler who twice earned All-American honors at Penn State, Cummins took his UFC debut on just 10 days notice, losing to Daniel Cormier in the UFC 170 co-main event. But in the 21 months that have passed since his first Octagon appearance, Cummins has emerged as one of the finest talents at 205 pounds.
He’s also developed a penchant for topping Brazilians in their own territory.
Coming off the Cormier bout, Cummins was given a few significantly easier assignments. He blew through Roger Narvaez, an undersized light heavyweight making his UFC debut, in less than two rounds. And just seven weeks later, Cummins retired former The Ultimate Fighter alum Kyle Kingsbury via a dominating decision.
With two UFC wins under his belt, Cummins was then shipped south, to Brazil, for a bout with Antonio Carlos Jr.
Brazil has always been a difficult destination for North American and European MMA fighters. Many fighters seize the opportunity to travel to new locales and take in the local culture. Brazil, in particular, holds a special place in MMA lore as the home of Vale Tudo. But there’s also an idea that the judges are unkind to non-Brazilians, often gifting decisions to local fighters.
Despite the country’s reputation for giving local athletes a home field advantage of sorts, it is in Brazil where Cummins has put on his best performances. And he’s hoping to make it three straight in South America when he takes on former title challenger Glover Teixeira on Saturday night.
It’s been less than a year since Cummins first traveled down to Brazil to fight Carlos Jr. And after a fairly close first round, Cummins controlled the remainder of the bout.
Still, in Brazil, anything is possible.
Ultimately, Cummins won the fight over Carlos Jr. via unanimous decision. But for his second trip down south, a bout of a significantly higher profile against Rafael Cavalcante, Cummins would eliminate the need for any interpretation from the judges. He stopped Cavalcante, a former Strikeforce champion, via elbows, improving to 2-0 in Brazil.
Cummins isn’t the only American to have such success in Brazil. His former Penn State teammate Phil Davis developed a reputation as a Brazilian killer, beating Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Vinny Magalhaes, Wagner Prado, Lyoto Machida, and Teixeira, the latter three all in their home country.
And it is with this blue print from Davis that Cummins hopes to top Teixeira this weekend.
Without a doubt, wrestling is Cummins primary asset in competition. A two-time USA national team member, Cummins presses forward and clinches up with opponents before transitioning into takedown mode. Once on the ground, he’s a dominant force, smothering combatants with top control and ground and pound.
His style, like Davis’, is made for decision fighting, often using the full 15 minutes to get his point across. But if Cummins is to beat Teixeira, a top-five light heavy weight, he’ll need to do more than lay and pray.
He’ll also need to watch out for Teixeira’s right hook, which is as devastating as any in the division.
If there’s been any knock on Cummins, aside from revealing training room secrets to the media, it is his striking defense. Thoroughly dominated by Cormier in February 2014, he was knockout cold by Ovince St. Preux earlier this year, absorbing an uppercut as he pushed forward for a takedown.
Having already taken St. Preux down in their matchup, Cummins became overzealous in his approach. This is exactly when the finishing blow occurred. He’ll need to be more careful against Teixeira.
Cummins must also be wary of Teixeira’s under-appreciated skills on the ground.
A BJJ black belt, Teixeira, the former training partner of Chuck Liddell, has developed a reputation as a boxing-centric mixed martial artist. But if his last bout, against St. Preux, demonstrated anything, it’s that Teixeira is able to transition from the standup game to the ground with ease, and that potentially spells disaster for Cummins.
Fortunately for Cummins, he, again, has Davis, his fellow Nittany Lion, to thank for providing an outline on how to win down in Brazil.
And while Davis was able to score the decision win over Teixeira a year ago, Cummins, who is looking to improve to 3-0 in Brazil, would be best advised to keep the judges, and their scorecards away from the final verdict.
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