For former kickboxer turned MMA fighter Steve Steinbeiss, when he entered the UFC he expected a different outcome. The event was UFC Fight Night: Diaz vs. Guillard and it was the UFC’s first appearance in Oklahoma. The striker was facing a veteran talent in Ryan Jensen and the stage was all set to show why he was chosen for the biggest show in the sport.
The bell rang, the two started the dance of bad intentions, and just as fast Jensen stole the newcomer’s chance to shine in the first round via guillotine choke. However, according to Steinbeiss, Jensen wasn’t the glory stealer but instead he was a victim of bad decision making by referee Gary Ritter.
“I don’t know if it’s the popular thing to say, but it was a really bad decision,” said Steinbeiss. “It should have been a no contest and I think anybody who watched the fight can see that I was giving the thumbs up and the referee stopped it. Anybody who saw it live or who’s seen it will tell you how bad of a referee judgment call it was but I’m trying to let that go. I had sour grapes about some bad judging but I don’t really consider it a win or a loss; it just was, and I’m trying to let it go.”
That was Steinbeiss’ last professional bout until his current challenge in Rob Kimmons. Slated for UFC on Versus 2: Jones vs. Matyushenko, this marks almost a full year for both Steinbeiss and Kimmons out of competition, and for the fight critics, the term ‘ring rust’ is not a mythical ailment, but a real inconvenient disposition.
“You won’t know about ‘ring rust’ until you actually step in there. Training is one thing and fighting is another. There’ve been times I went into the fight feeling really good and then when I get in the ring I don’t feel so great. Then there have been times I’m in training, I’m thinking this is a so-so camp and then I get in there and I feel really good. As far as ring rust I think I’ll be good; I mean, this is my 15th professional fight overall, if you mix kickboxing and MMA. I’ve been training, so it wasn’t like I took a lot of time off. I was going to fight in January but my rib popped out, so I was training all the way up until a week and a half before that fight when I had to pull out. I’ve got training partners, my whole camp and I’ve been helping those guys get ready so it’s not like I’ve been out the gym for nine months then decided to put the gloves on and get back into it.”
Based in the hot MMA oasis of Phoenix, Arizona, Steinbeiss has the luck to be part of an All-Star MMA cast, which in turn, supports him. UFC vets such as Seth Baczynski, a newcomer to the camp used a lot for drilling, Jesse Forbes, CB Dollaway, Aaron Simpson and Ryan Bader, all pitch in, with striking at older brother Ray Steinbeiss’ boxing gym rounding out the long training sessions. The gladiator academy of trainers and innate talent are what Steinbeiss hopes will be the difference maker to neutralize Kimmons’ vast experience. And as Steinbeiss points out, there is a consistent path that many of Kimmons’ opponents have followed that he will not.
“His strengths are definitely that he’s a really tough guy, he has really good ground, he’s very durable and he breaks people by putting pressure on them,” said Steinbeiss of his foe. “When he walks forward, you see the other guy, they’ll hit him with a couple of punches and he’ll walk through it and they’ll end up shooting in and he beats them from there; guys break under pressure.”
“I don’t think he’s a very good striker but I think that comes from him not being as tall as most 185 pounders,” Steinbeiss continues. “I think his wrestling is so-so. I think he’s a good ground guy and as far as weaknesses I’d have to say his striking and maybe wrestling. I don’t know his full potential, but just from the fights that I’ve actually seen that’s what I can tell.”
On the eve of his second UFC appearance, Steve Steinbeiss is ready to erase his first performance from everyone’s minds. With the deep middleweight division and its cast of scary characters all sitting atop the heap (Silva, Sonnen, Leben, Akiyama, to name a few) it is extremely challenging to make a name for yourself amid the fray. With new athletic MMA phenoms cropping up daily, those within any UFC division have a right to be worried and also hopeful to snag the spotlight and begin ascension. Steinbeiss is a realist and as such is willing to take the long path, hopefully to the top.
“I’d say I’m lucky to be in the division. On paper if you count that last fight that I’ve got if you count that as a loss I’m 4-3, I’m (laughs) barely even in the division. I think 185 lbs., is one of the toughest divisions in the UFC. I think I match up with a lot of the guys but I’ve got to win this fight to prove myself and in fact I’ll probably have to win three or four fights before I get any kind of recognition. I know what I’m up against, but at this point there’s no speculation of where I’m at in the division (laughs).”