Lewis Gonzalez set out to make a statement in his welterweight fight against Ty Freeman at WFC16 in Sacramento on Saturday, aiming to not only win but to do so in a way many haven’t seen over the course of his four-year professional career.
Known for his sharp wrestling skills, Gonzalez (11-2) opted instead to showcase his striking abilities against Freeman (9-5), landing a multitude of leg kicks, body shots and overhand rights en route to a unanimous decision victory.
“Like I’ve been telling people for a while, I’ve been trying to showcase my standup. I only went to the ground twice, but that was because of him trying for the takedowns,” Gonzalez said. “I dominated, was never really in trouble in the fight, and I think I showcased that I can stand up and I’m not just a one-dimensional wrestler.”
Gonzalez established himself in the first round with a strong jab and punishing outside leg kicks that proved to be a difference maker throughout the fight. After trading punches with Freeman and landing several knees to his opponent’s midsection, Gonzalez was briefly taken down in the final minute of the round before scrambling back to his feet.
The second round saw much of the same from Gonzalez while Freeman’s energy level dropped, mostly due to the constant barrage of outside leg kicks to his left leg that led to a swollen and bruised thigh.
“I usually threw those more for decoys in the past,” Gonzalez said of his leg kicks. “In this fight I could tell they were really taking a toll and in the second and third period when I was throwing those leg kicks, they were to throw the leg kicks and make him hurt. I saw the effect it was having on him, I saw his leg all bruised, so I kept chopping down at his legs.”
Gonzalez’ striking looked most impressive in the middle stages of the second round where he landed a variety of combos and several overhand rights. His aggressiveness would eventually hinder him, however, as he broke his right hand after landing an overhand right at an awkward angle at the four-minute mark of the round.
“The second round, I felt like I was picking him apart with those leg kicks,” Gonzalez said. “I think that was the best I’ve ever stood up in a round.”
Using his right hand sparingly in the third round, Gonzalez finished out the fight with stiff jabs, left hooks and more outside leg kicks. Freeman scored two takedowns in the final round, but again Gonzalez escaped and reversed positions, eventually ending the fight on top and in control of Freeman.
“There wasn’t enough power in my right to finish the fight. There were a couple times I got him and almost finished. I think if my hand was good I could have put a little more heat on those shots,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez is now back in the winner’s circle after losing his sole fight of 2015 to Leandro Silva at UFC Fight Night 70. Though he wanted to earn a finish to help his chances of returning to the UFC, Gonzalez believes his performance on Saturday was a good stepping stone towards that goal.
“I think they saw a lot of good things from my standup,” Gonzalez said. “But I’m still working on that finish. I’m going to get it.”
Gonzalez must now let his hand heal before he can contemplate a return to the cage, but he hopes to be back on a fight card by summer to continue his quest for a UFC roster spot.