Lewis Gonzalez is a professional Mixed Martial Artist, but at his core he is a wrestler. His grappling skills propelled him to nine consecutive wins to begin his career, earned him a spot as a Las Vegas headliner, and garnered enough interest from the UFC for the premier MMA organization to give him a primetime fight in 2015.
But now, after losing two of his last three fights, Gonzalez (10-2) knows he must evolve or perish. To do that, the Turlock native who practically grew up in a wrestling room will have to showcase his striking abilities, and in his mind earn a standup finish, in his fight against Ty Freeman (9-4) at West Coast Fighting Championship 16 in Sacramento tonight.
“Everyone wants to see the highlight-reel knockout and big shots from your feet and good standup. Everyone’s more of a fan of that so that will help my career, showing that I can finish guys from my feet,” Gonzalez said. “That’s my plan, but sometimes if they’re just relentless with trying to take it to the ground, and if he’s getting his hands on me, it might turn into a wrestling match whether it’s my choice or not.”
Seven months removed from his last fight – a decision loss in his UFC debut against the veteran Leandro Silva, a fight he took on 11 days’ notice – Gonzalez is eager to step into the cage at the McClellan Conference Center as his best possible self and put on a show he hopes will help return him to the UFC roster. With offers from other national promotions, Gonzalez opted to instead return to the regional WFC promotion, avoiding contracts that would keep him from UFC consideration.
“We planned this fight, you know, almost three months ahead of time to make sure you’re going to see the best of me instead of a last second fight that’s put together,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve got offers from Bellator and World Series of Fighting, but I want to try and go back to the UFC. So I’m going to try and win a couple more in the region.”
Standing between Gonzalez and his career resurgence is Freeman, a Santa Anna fighter who’s earned all but one of his nine victories by either TKO of submission.
“He swings heavy, from the beginning he likes to go real hard and throw big shots,” Gonzalez said of his opponent. “But I can tell he’s comfortable with the wrestling part. He wants to be on the ground with the grappling, which I’m fine with that.”
With both fighters boasting win-via-stoppage rates of 70 percent or higher, tonight’s welterweight showdown between the “Lethal” Gonzalez and the “Iron” Freeman is not likely to see the end of round three.
“I’m just getting more confident now; there’s nothing new to me. I’ve fought some top standup guys, the last guy I fought was a black belt in jiu jitsu, so I think I’m getting more confidence as this is going along,” Gonzalez said. “Everyone drops a couple — you have to learn from your mistakes. Before, I could take anybody down at will. Now I’m starting to get to the level where these guys have wrestling too, and I’ve got to up the other parts of my game with my standup, with my jiu jitsu, and just overall become an MMA fighter and not just a wrestler who knows how to throw a punch.”
— Look for video coverage of the fight on Thursday’s episode of Studio209 at turlockjournal.com and youtube.com/turlockjournal.