When sizing up Friday night’s 135-pound Ultimate Fighting Championship matchup between Jared Papazian and Dustin Pague, quite a few similarities come to the forefront.
However, perhaps the one most appealing to fans is that when Pague and Papazian square off, their intentions are to put on an entertaining bantamweight fight more than anything else.
“I’m just gonna come out guns blazing,” said Papazian (14-7), who trains out of Burbank Gracie Barra. "[I] always keep coming, always keep fighting.”
Pague, who sports a 10-5 record, shares much the same outlook as Papazian that it’s just as important to put on a good fight as it is to get a victory.
“We’re not just fighters, we’re entertainers, too,” said Pague, who, like Papazian, is 24 and began his mixed-martial-arts career in 2008. “Nobody wants to see a boring fight.
“Hopefully me and Jared put on a fight of the night and we’ll go out there and throw some bombs and have a fight people remember.”
The two are set to tangle in the fifth bout of the night, live on Fuel TV as part of the preliminary card for the UFC on FX 3, which emanates from the Bank Atlantic Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Both will be fighting in their second UFC bouts and both are coming off losses in their debuts.
Pague, a former “The Ultimate Fighter” cast member, dropped his debut on Dec. 3, 2011 when he lost to John Albert via a first-round technical knockout. Papazian lost to the highly regarded Mike Easton in a majority decision on Jan. 20 in a bout that many were clamoring for as fight of the night and later drew bonus checks for both fighters from UFC President Dana White. Pague had a five-fight winning streak snapped by his loss, while Papazian had claimed victory in his three previous bouts and eight of his last nine.
“It was awesome. I came in with no pressure, whatsoever. I just came in with guns blazing,” Papazian said of the Easton fight. “It was very close; I thought I won the fight.”
But the decision didn’t go Papazian’s way and, in the world of the UFC, two straight losses, particularly to start your career in the octagon, usually signal one’s release from the company. Thus, the fight may very well have the added stipulation that both combatants are fighting for their jobs.
“I think it kinda comes down to that,” Pague said. “I’m not really focusing on that, because I think I fight better when I’m not thinking about just winning.
“Bottom line, that could be the case, the UFC wants wins.”
Like Pague, Papazian is aware of the situation, but is trying his best to focus elsewhere.
“Yeah, it’s a big question, if I lose, if I get my walking papers, but I’m still real young, so if it wasn’t meant to be, it wasn’t meant to be,” Papazian said. “I don’t see me losing this fight, though. This is, by far, my best [training] camp.”
Pague, who made his rise largely fighting on the East Coast, shares the same confidence as his opponent.
“I feel like this is one of my best camps,” Pague said. “I just feel excellent going in, I’m really confident.”
Pague has been to a decision just once in his career and boasts seven submission wins. However, by his own accord, he sees himself as more of a stand-up fighter and one of his better attributes is his clinch work. Against Albert, though, he believes his downfall may well have been trying to make it an exciting bout right from the get-go.
“I got overzealous my last fight and rushed in there,” Pague said. “This fight, I’m just gonna stick to the game plan, which is to stick and move. I need to keep [my striking] tight.”
Papazian, meanwhile, has fought to a decision in six consecutive bouts and 11 of his 21 overall tilts. Papazian’s pace and the back-and-forth nature of his bouts have showcased perhaps his two biggest strengths: his heart and his stamina.
“My cardio’s great,” said Papazian, who has thrice fought to five-round decisions in King of the Cage title bouts. “It’s good to have experience-wise.”
Still, Papazian isn’t aiming for another decision, as the upstart with a kickboxing background who trains under the tutelage of Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt Alberto Crane is looking to stop Pague.
“I’m gonna try and go for the finish and I’m not gonna stop ‘til I [get it],” Papazian said.
Said Crane: “If he fights anywhere close to his best, I see him winning the fight. I think it’s a good matchup [for Papazian], but at that level, everybody’s tough.”