Dustin Jacoby is a throwback fighter. How much? Well, given his recent performances, I had to ask him how he thinks he would have done in the UFC of 1993 – no rounds, no time limits, (almost) anything goes.
“I think I would've done very well,” said Jacoby. “I think I'm from the old school - built different. And then if you look at my fights, too, man, in my last fight with Azamat (Murzakanov), if it wasn't a three-round fight and it would've gone to rounds four and five, I think I would've won that fight. And even the Khalil (Rountree) fight, I think if there were more rounds, I would've won that fight.”
Then there’s his 2021 bout with Ion Cutelaba, which saw him bounce back from a rough start to surge back and salvage a draw. In other words, Jacoby is one of the rare fighters who doesn’t slow down as a bout progresses but gets stronger. That’s a dangerous weapon to have, but getting out of the gate slow has cost him, with the losses to Murzakanov and Rountree, and the draw with Cutelaba, the only blemishes on his record in his second UFC stint.
Of course, that can be worked on and remedied. What can’t be taught is the heart that keeps a fighter going when things are going south.
“I take pride in being there at the final bell and still going strong when the other guy looks like he could be defeated,” said Jacoby. “And I think that's something that has put me where I'm at right now in my career; just the resiliency that I show time and time again, and it's gotten me to where I am at this point in my life. I've got a fighter's heart, I've got a competitor's heart and I’m a guy that just will never give in and never quit.”
The stereotype of a fighter with a tremendous amount of heart is that he is a face-first brawler who fires first and asks questions later. But years of experience in MMA and kickboxing, as well as a vigorous reading schedule, has made the 35-year-old a thinking man’s fighter. In general, that’s a good thing. Yet thinking too much can be a bad thing, too.
“I think maybe the last fight, I thought too much,” he admits. “I put too much weight into that loss to Khalil and it really took a lot out of me in the sense that I was just really down that that's how my streak ended on a controversial decision where the judges told me I lost, while 14 of the 16 media outlets told me I won. That takes a lot out of you. And then you're like, okay, the streak's over, you've lost a little bit of confidence and you obviously feel a little defeated. Then you're going into a matchup with an undefeated guy who has a lot of knockouts and he's really quick, and I think I just thought too much about it.”
Until he just stopped thinking and turned into “The Hanyak” again.
“When the going got tough in that third round, I just turned the brain off and did what I know how to do best: put my head down and just go. And that's when I was having some success. So I just need to turn the brain off and go out there and trust the training, trust my instincts, trust the preparation and get it done.”
This Saturday, he gets to test out going back to basics against Kennedy Nzechukwu, and on a card filled with intriguing matchups with Fight of the Night potential, this may be the frontrunner. And as a fan, Jacoby is pretty jazzed about it, too.
“I love this fight,” he said. “Kennedy's an up and comer and he's looked really good in his last three fights. We have some familiar foes on the docket that he's faced and I faced, and I just love the matchup. I think it's a tailor-made matchup for me. I enjoy fighting bigger guys, I enjoy fighting longer guys, and I think with my experience, I've been here before. I like where I sit right now, and I think the fans are going to enjoy this fight. I think that his style is going to work well into my kickboxing style and it's going to be a fun fight for all involved.”
Fun for us, maybe. But is it going to be fun being locked in an Octagon with the 6-foot-5 Nzechukwu, who has finished nine of his 12 pro wins? If you’re an old-school battler like Jacoby, this isn’t just what he signed up for; it’s what he craves.
“The fans ultimately pay our checks, so if they're excited about this fight, I'm very excited,” he said. “Kennedy's a guy who when the fight gets dirty, he turns it up, and I turn it up in a dog fight, so it's going to be a good one. May the best man win. And Kennedy's a good dude. I like the guy. We've been around each other between fighting on the same cards and cornering different fighters in the back and being in the same room. So I'm familiar with him, he's familiar with me and I think it's just going to be a great fight for the fans.”
UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs Font took place live from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee on August 5, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!