In the octagon, it’s not hard to imagine Leonard Garcia as one of those old-school cartoon characters, with an angel perched on one shoulder and the devil on the other.
The angel, most likely in the alternating forms of coaches Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn, preaches patience and technical prowess. The devil urges Garcia to throw caution to the wind. Usually the bad guy in red prevails.
On Saturday, the Jackson-Winkeljohn Mixed Martial Arts product will have the opportunity to reprise one of his wildest brawls when he faces Chan Sung Jung (10-3) at UFC Fight Night 24 in Seattle. Garcia (15-6-1) edged the featherweight known as “The Korean Zombie” at WEC 48 in what was one of 2010’s most exciting bouts.
“Leonard Garcia, bless his heart, always has the temptation to get into a slugfest,” said Winkeljohn. “He likes to go to war, he has that gigantic heart and he just wants to throw. He knows the better strategy would be to take this guy apart.”
It’s not that he can’t do it another way, Garcia explains. It’s just so much fun to let the fists fly.
“Eighty percent of me wants it to be the first fight all over again. The other 20 percent of me wants to go out there and show what improvements I’ve made and be a smarter fighter,” he said.
Teammate and best friend Donald Cerrone, with whom Garcia shares a ranch in Edgewood, has noticeably improved his wrestling in recent performances. Winkeljohn says that Cerrone’s progression has rubbed off on Garcia in practices. Now it’s just a matter of demonstrating it.
“I’ve done a lot of wrestling. I feel like the cauliflower ear that I’ve got, it’s earned. I (just) don’t go out there and show people how it’s earned in fights,” Garcia said. “There’s a big part of me that wants to change that, but then again there’s that voice inside of my head that tells me, ‘Hey man just go out there and put on a show.’”
Give the devil his due: Garcia’s strategy of unharnessed aggression can pay off handsomely. Three of his last four cage appearances have resulted in the Texas native earning “Fight of the Night” honors and the bonuses that come with them. Garcia is 2-0-1 in those contests, beating Jung and Nam Phan via split decision while battling to a draw with George Roop. While no one with 20-20 vision can dispute the entertainment value of a Garcia fight, scoring his bouts has been hell on judges.
The announcement of the decision against Jung drew boos from those in attendance, while the Phan ruling has been held up as the example of poor judging in MMA for the previous year. None of that is the fault of Garcia, who credits his style for winning scorecards. Jung is a late replacement for Phan, who suffered an undisclosed injury and had to pull out of the match.
Jung is coming off a devastating setback to Roop, where Jung was rendered temporarily unconscious by a head kick. The psychology of coming back from his first career knockout loss in 13 fights could play a role in Jung’s willingness to engage. Garcia doesn’t want to see an opponent with damaged confidence — that could hamper the show.
“I’m expecting the same Chan that came out and fought me the first time. I’m hoping he’s cleared all those jitters,” he said.
Capsule – UFC Fight Night 24: Phil Davis vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Leonard Garcia vs. Chan Sung Jung
Photo Credit – jim thompson/journal
Cutline – Leonard Garcia, shown finishing Hiroyki Takaya in a 2008 WEC fight, faces Chan Sung Jung at UFC Fight Night 24 on Saturday in a rematch of one of the best fights of 2010.