Cathal Pendred takes plenty of lessons from hard-fought win over Umalatov

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Unsurprisingly for a guy who graduated with a degree in Analytical Science, UFC welterweight Cathal Pendred (15-2-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) applies a discerning eye when reviewing his performances inside the cage.

Although the Dubliner’s split decision-victory over Gasan Umalatov on the preliminary card of UFC Fight Night 53 in Stockholm, Sweden, last Saturday was pivotal in ensuring the continuation of his nascent career at MMA’s top table, he can’t help lamenting that it lacked the drama of his octagon debut against Mike King in the then 02 Arena back in July.

That night, in front of his hometown crowd, ‘The Punisher’ endured a torrid first round, only to comeback and choke his fellow TUF 19 cast mate unconscious in the second, and in the process, earn himself a Fight of the Night bonus cheque.

On Saturday, however, he spent a vexing 15 minutes looking to engage with his Russian opponent, who rarely launched any offense of his own, while only occasionally counter-punching. Pendred was initially worried how the fight was perceived, but in retrospect he’s found a more positive outlook.

“I watched it back and I feel a bit better about it now. I think it was evident that I was trying to make more of a fight of it than he was, so I’m happy in that sense.

“There is a lot of things I’d like to improve on and I think I’ve learned in terms of fighting someone with that kind of game plan. It’s a learning curve, but if you can go in there, not be exactly happy with your performance and still win; you’re doing alright.”

Having returned to training at the SBG gym and dissected the bout with head coach John Kavanagh, the 26-year-old remains confounded by what he felt was a lack lustre approach by Umalatov.

“It’s was very strange, and something I don’t really understand as a hungry fighter trying to move forward; I would never consider a game plan like that. Maybe if you were the champion and just trying to get through a fight and not let someone beat you, but when you’re in a competitive environment like the UFC, I don’t really get a guy fighting like that.

“I saw his fight with Paulo Thiago fight, and didn’t take him as a counter-striker, because I’m pretty sure he (Umalatov) rocked him a couple of times coming forward. Maybe if I’d looked into him a bit more, I might have seen it. You’re constantly evolving in this game, and I think I’ve learned a lot on how to deal with someone like that.

“The only time he threw something on me when I didn’t close the distance, was a spinning back fist. I spoke to John (Kavanagh) about it, and he said it was probably just out of fear of committing himself because, apparently, he (Umalatov) spoke a lot about my physical stature in his pre-fight interviews.”

While the judges were totalling their scorecards in the aftermath of the fight, fans and pundits alike were stumped as to which way they may lean, but not Pendred, not for a second.

“I wasn’t nervous at all. I was shocked it was split decision. I thought I had 100% won two rounds, and I even thought I won the third, to be honest. I know people thought there was a knock down, but I jumped in with a Superman punch and landed with my feet square, and he hit me with a right, and when your feet aren’t one behind the other, you’re off balance, so it wasn’t a punch that rocked me. But, obviously, the judges most-likely saw it as a knock down.”

The elation at hearing two of the three judges saw things exactly as he did was mildly tempered by his teammates, Gunni Nelson and Paddy Holohan, both being handed their first professional losses that same night. With former being defeated by Rick Story via split decision in the Stockholm main event, and the latter going down to Chris Kelades in the wee hours of Sunday morning in Halifax, Canada.

“We’re not like other teams where we’re just business partners, we’re also really good friends. So when they lose, I feel the disappointment. I wouldn’t say it tarnished my win, but it sort of took away from the occasion, because we had it set to get another clean sweep in the space of a week, but this is the sport we’re in.”

The win over Umalatov meant Pendred, a former Cage Warriors welterweight champion, has extended his unbeaten streak to 10 straight-fights, and he is now already looking forward to his next octagon appearance.

“I really want to get another fight in before the end of the year. I’ve been on to my management and told them to let Joe Silva know that I’d love to get in again before Christmas. I’ve got it in my head to be going into the New Year 3-0 in the UFC.”