It took him three fights, but when Eddie Wineland secured his first UFC victory with a Fight of the Night knockout of Scott Jorgensen in June, it was an affirmation that the first ever WEC bantamweight champion truly belonged with the elite 135-pounders plying their trade in the Octagon.
“Whether it be the UFC or your first amateur show 10 miles down the road from your house, you don’t ever want to lose,” said Wineland, whose win over Jorgensen was his first victory since December of 2010. “But yeah, getting that first win inside the UFC, it was huge. It was what I needed and I knew I had it. My previous fights, I feel like I should have won those also. I just needed to show that. Finally getting to show that, and letting loose, it was a good feeling.”
To the diehard fans of the sport, Wineland’s place among the best in the world was never questioned. After losing the WEC title to Chase Beebe in 2007, the Indianan won six of his next seven bouts, four of them in the WEC’s blue cage. In fact, Wineland went 4-0 in his final fights in the organization before it merged with the UFC, nabbing back-to-back Knockout of the Night bonuses against Will Campuzano and Ken Stone along the way.
So anticipation was high for his debut in the UFC in March of 2011, but he lost a competitive unanimous decision to Urijah Faber at UFC 128. Five months later he fell to 0-2 in the promotion with a decision defeat to Faber’s teammate Joseph Benavidez, a frustrating beginning to say the least.
“The competition that I fought, they were potentially the number two and three guys in the world, but it was frustrating because I knew I was better than that,” said Wineland. “I knew that if I did what I knew that I could do, I would have beat them, but I didn’t let loose, and I think I learned from it and learned that every time I come to fight, it’s got to be, not with so much reckless abandon, but I just gotta get in there and let loose.”
On June 8th in Sunrise, Florida, Wineland let loose, surviving a nasty cut on his forehead to hand Jorgensen his first ever knockout defeat and get himself into the UFC win column for the first time.
“From the beginning to the end, my whole plan was to get in there and let loose,” said Wineland. “When he cut me, I didn’t fight differently than what I was; I think I started throwing more. I wouldn’t say there wasn’t a sense of urgency, because there was. I didn’t know how bad the cut was, so I didn’t know if they stopped to check it if they would stop it. So I just kept doing what I was doing and what I came to do and that was the game plan from the very beginning, to get in there and let my hands fly and be first and hit him and not get hit.”
The win was Wineland’s 19th as a pro (against eight losses and one draw) and his 10th knockout victory. Among 135-pounders, that many knockouts is something worth talking about.
“I don’t think it’s ever been a secret that I hit hard,” said Wineland. “I think after punching Jorgensen, people realize that I really do hit hard because Jorgensen is a guy who’s never been knocked out. He’s been dropped before, but he’s never been unconscious like he was. And for a guy at 135 pounds to do that with one punch, obviously you don’t normally see it. I think I’m one of the heavy hitters and I think people know that and I think people are gonna watch out for that. I don’t think anybody really wants to get hit by me.”
Yet as Wineland is quick to point out, it wasn’t always lights out whenever he touched someone on the chin.
“I’ve always been a wrestler and always had strong legs and strong hips, but I when I first started out I was an arm puncher,” said Wineland, a pro since 2003. “After my third fight I started hitting people and I started watching them get wobbled. That’s when I started taking boxing lessons and I learned how to throw my hips into it and how to bring the power from the ground to my hands, and once I started hitting people, it was like ‘holy crap.’ (Laughs) People holding pads for me would always tell me ‘your right hand has a lot of power in it,’ and when you start dropping people, you realize that if you punch somebody, they’re gonna fall down.”
Which makes his UFC 155 bout with Brad Pickett this Saturday all the more intriguing. Wineland has one punch stopping power and will fight through any sort of adversity to get the chance to use it, while Pickett…well, let’s just say that three post-fight bonuses in the Brit’s first three UFC bouts should tell the tale fairly well. And though Wineland isn’t promising fireworks, you get the impression that he’s expecting them.
“The bonuses are nice, the money is nice, but I’m coming for the win,” he said. “And I know that me doing what I’ve gotta do to win and him doing what he’s gotta do to win is gonna make for an exciting fight. I don’t think there’s any point in chasing a bonus. If we both come and do what we both know what to do, I think the bonus is inevitable.”
And if he can make it two in a row to end 2012, that wouldn’t be a bad thing for this nine year “overnight” success, who isn’t letting the positive feedback from the Jorgensen fight go to his head. He’s just a homebody from Chesterton, Indiana who happens to be pretty good at this mixed martial arts stuff.
“For me, fighting is what I love, and I know without the fans, fighting is nothing,” he said. “So the fanbase, and the so-called overnight fame, stardom, whatever you want to call it, is nice, but I’m kind of a humble homebody, so I don’t really get out. When I’m at the events, yeah, I sit and I talk to everybody, but when I’m at home I like to do me and I really don’t pay attention to what’s going on outside of my home.”
This Saturday though, it’s back to work, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get the win against the always exciting Pickett.
“I don’t think I really have to coax him into a brawl; I think he enjoys that kind of fight,” said Wineland. “I watched a little bit of tape on him. He gets hit, he stands in the pocket, and he’ll stand and trade. But it’s one of those things where you’ve got to take it as it comes. Just like the Jorgensen fight. I had no intentions on taking him down. I just pressed him on the cage and I saw it there and I took it. I’m coming for the win and I’m coming to do what I gotta do to win, so whatever I’ve gotta do to get my hand raised at the end, that’s what I’m gonna do.”
Eddie Wineland - Letting Loose
"I don’t think it’s ever been a secret that I hit hard." - Eddie Wineland