The up-and-down career of Paul Buentello takes another turn this weekend in Southern California. Now back down in "the minors," Buentello faces another guy who is trying to recapture the results of his prime in former UFC champion Tim Sylvia. Both big men have dealt with the same issues of motivation and managing fights mentally. Sylvia probably won't admit that he's lost some of the fire and that walking around at 300-plus pounds is hurting his career, but Buentello is owning up to his gaffes.
"I never realized how far behind I am mentally on this fight game," Buentello told FightHubtv.com (2:31 mark). "I have the heart, I have the skills, but just that one little aspect of controlling my mind over my body. Because once my body gets tired, my mind just doesn't control what my body wants to do. It comes into the cardio and quitting."
Buentello (28-12, 3-3 UFC) meets Sylvia (26-6, 10-4 UFC) Saturday night in the main event of "War on the Mainland" in Irvine, Calif.
At the end of 2009, Buentello got a new lease on life. He got out of his deal with Strikeforce and after a three-year absence from the UFC he was brought him back. But the 36-year-old failed to seize the opportunity. He gassed in a slugfest against Stefan Struve at UFC 107 and then mentally broke in a loss against Cheick Kongo in March at UFC on Versus 1. Shortly after, he was dumped by the promotion. That's when fellow fighter and trainer, Antonio McKee stepped in. Actually, he did more than step in. He lobbied Buentello and his management to allow him to try and fix the 250-pound slugger.
"He was telling my manager, I'm just a mental fart away from being on top again," said Buentello.
It's all about playing to his strengths.
"I hit really hard and I'm fast for my size," said Buentello. "If I let my hands go, anything's possible. And that's the problem I've been having the last couple of fights, not going in there with the mental toughness."
McKee, who works out of The Body Shop in Lakewood, Calif., agrees that it's all in Buentello's head.
"If Paul goes out there and hesitates, it could be a short night for Paul," said McKee. "But I don't see [Sylvia] knocking out Paul. Paul's got a tough chin, he hits hard and I wouldn't be surprised if he knocked Tim out with a jab."
That's probably a stretch but Buentello does have the speed advantage. Frankly, who knows what kind of shape Sylvia will be in. He last fought and won against World Strongman champ Mariusz Pudzianowski. A few fights before that suffered quick losses to Ray Mercer and Fedor Emelianenko.