After earning a unanimous decision over Donnie Liles at the IFL World Grand Prix semifinals in November, Jay Hieron is now on the path to becoming the IFL’s first-ever welterweight champion.
However the only thing standing in Hieron’s way is Delson Heleno, who also was victorious at the Grand Prix semifinals last month and might be giving Hieron the biggest test of his MMA career thus far.
Hieron has acknowledged that quite he has quite the test coming up for him next weekend but it’s exactly the type of fight he wants to be in.
“I’ve fought a lot of tough fights,” Hieron said during a Monday teleconference. “He’s just another tough fight for me. I love these tough fights though. I’m really excited for this fight. After this it’s just about getting through this last hard week and then putting up game face on and getting out there.”
The matchup presents an interesting contrast of styles. Hieron has been a wrestling standout since high school while Heleno is widely known as one of the most talented jiu-jitsu practicioners out there today. While Hieron is more than capable of holding his own on the ground with Heleno, he’d like to try and keep the fight on the feet in this one.
“I think my striking is much better than his,” said Hieron. “That’s the plan, to keep it on the feet. If it goes to the ground I’ve been doing wrestling for years so I’ll be prepared for that as well. He’s a great fighter but I think he likes to force the takedown and I think that will play into my ability to keep things standing. Like I said, I’m more than prepared to go to the ground but I’d like to stay out of his element as much as possible.
Hieron’s standup is the one thing that many followers of MMA haven’t seen very much. An abnormally high percentage of Hieron’s fights have ended up going to the ground. Hieron hopes to break that trend on December 29th. As one of Hieron’s teammates at Xtreme Couture, Chris Horodecki attests that Hieron’s striking is a secret that will surprise a lot of people when he finally gets the opportunity to show it.
“I’ve been working on my striking constantly since I started doing mixed martial arts,” said Hieron. “That was the first thing that I worked on when I came into the sport. I feel my striking is just as good as anyone in the IFL, I just haven’t had a chance to show it since so many of my fights have ended up going to the ground.”
The IFL World Grand Prix Finals are scheduled to take place next Saturday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The event will be broadcast in the United States on HDNet and in Canada on FOX Sports World Canada.