The Severe Spotlight: Jordan Vucenic

It is not often that a plea need be made for a fighter to be signed to the UFC. In European history it has happened with Neil Seery, who was successfully signed and went on to have a fantastic career. It is currently happening with Paul Hughes, and it must also happen for Jordan Vucenic. At 28 years old, 12-2, ex-Cage Warriors champion 4-1 in his last five, all four finishes. His only loss coming at the hands of Hughes. This is a fighter that must feature on the 2024 London card if not before; and kickstart his attempt at a UFC career.

It felt like the Indigo at the O2 stage was dressed like a shop window, a shop window selling one item and to a very specific audience. Ian Dean once again excelled in bringing in a worthy challenger for the crown jewel of Saturdays card in Simone D’Anna (10-5) to showcase his abilities. Having previously fought names like Brian Moore and Michele Martignoni, D’Anna was battle tested, and experienced across three weight classes.

As Vucenic walked to the cage, a look of assured calmness etched across his face. It is unclear as to whether a UFC contract was negotiated pre-fight, or whether it was understood that the leader in combat sports had shown an interest, but if they had it didn’t show on the face of Vucenic.

It didn’t show inside the first 15 seconds as D’Anna attempted to establish momentum on the front foot – working behind a jab and aggressive footwork. Vucenic offered two reactions to the forward pressure, he switched from orthodox to southpaw as he circled out, lining D’Anna up for a switch low kick as he lunged in. The second, he takes a double step out and steps back in with a back elbow as D’Anna works into range with a jab, catching him in the mid-range.

It is important to note in those first thirty to forty-five seconds the difference in the overall balance, composure and cadence to the shots between the two men. D’Anna can be found reaching, off balanced when throwing his shots, mindful of the counters. Vucenic on the other hand, steadfast, rooted into the balls of his feet, weight in the right place as he throws or evades shots.

The next minute Vucenic begins to play with the ranges. He opts to work on the front foot for portions, and on the back foot for portions. He looks to setup the crisp check left hook as D’Anna steps in with his right hand and catches the Italian with it several times. A fantastic long right-hand pushes D’Anna to the fence, a jumping switch knee and an elbow behind it lets D’Anna know that Vucenic is beginning to warm up.

D’Anna catches a Vucenic left kick and forces him to the mat with it. Vucenic immediately tests D’Anna to see if a triangle is available, seeing that it isn’t he opts for a variation of Mission Control, a rubber guard position, and begins to stream down elbows onto the Italian. This presents an interesting dilemma, posture is broken due to Mission Control, and D’Anna does not want to release his left grip to hand fight, otherwise he will be in a triangle. He also cannot continue to take all of these shots.

He attempts to stack Vucenic, crowd his hips and stuff his right left between his knees. The power and momentum of the elbows cause Vucenic to slide himself out, and he pummels his right left free, locking up the triangle. D’Anna does a good job of taking a gable grip and building up to his feet, allowing the sweat and blood to give him enough bandwidth to escape the choke.

The final two minutes of the first round see Vucenic work some cage wrestling sequences, putting D’Anna on the mat for a brief moment before having to defend his own position. Using an Uchi Mata cleanly to allow him to square up with D’Anna.

The second round starts fast for D’Anna, who is desperate to gain some respect. Vucenic cleanly works himself out of most of those positions, catching and punishing D’Anna for his wildness. A very nice reversal when against the fence see’s Vucenic dive onto a double leg and ground his opponent. Landing in chest to chest half guard, Vucenic attempts an initial backstep – this is to try to clear the butterfly hook D’Anna has on the primary leg, this initial backstep fails. Instead he opts to clear the butterfly hook manually with his left hand, as he begins to cover the hips of D’Anna and working on a kimura grip at the upper body.

D’Anna begins to work to a hip and attempt a re-guard, Vucenic is wise to this, initially sitting weight into the armpits to stop the build-up, he then turns to face D’Anna, taking a shallow overhook and a cross face, and weaving his knee to the far hip. Releasing the cross face he works for elbows, D’Anna does a good job of returning momentarily too his feet, before he is dumped again, this time right into the mount.

A moment of back exposure allows D’Anna to then turn in, back to a half guard. However he has taken a deep underhook, and Vucenic has noticed it. The elbows to the thigh continue to rain down until Vucenic feels the underhook moving, as he does he slowly begins to work for it. D’Anna sense danger and bridges out, forcing Vucenic to face him once again.

No sooner had he faced his man, did the elbows come raining down once again. The left arm of D’Anna became exposed once more, and the left arm of Vucenic gratefully grabs a reverse underhook, stopping the shoulder of D’Anna returning to the mat. The right hand connects his kimura grip. The submission is on almost instantly, as D’Anna begins to tap. Vucenic need not wait for Marc Goddard to step in, as he releases and calmly walks away.

The UFC should be next for Jordan Vucenic.  

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