Eddie Wineland relying on more than just power in bout for UFC interim bantamweight belt

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

A well-rounded fighter is a lot more than a person who can hit hard, and there have been voluminous numbers of fighters in all types of combat sports who have had outstanding careers despite a relative lack of punching power.

But when one has the ability to punch, to drop an opponent with a single blow, victory is never out of reach. No matter how badly a fight is going, having pop guarantees a fighter is always a threat.

Eddie Wineland knows this. The UFC veteran has 10 knockouts among his 20 wins and, in a sense, saved his career with a pulverizing victory over Scott Jorgensen last year.

And be sure that Renan Barao, who will defend his interim bantamweight belt against Wineland on Saturday at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto in the co-feature of UFC 165, is aware of that, too.

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Barao is a massive favorite, as he should be. The Brazilian is 32-1 and hasn't lost since his pro debut more than eight years ago. Wineland had more losses in his first two UFC fights – defeats at the hands of Team Alpha Male stars Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez – than Barao has had in his career.

None of that matters to Wineland, though, who was the first World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight champion. Trace the lineage of the UFC belt back as far as you can and you'll find it started with Wineland taking the WEC belt in 2006.

And after a rocky start to his UFC career in 2011, Wineland is confident he'll return to his position atop the division on Saturday.

"I feel like I've put everything together and I've sharpened some things up and this fight is coming at the right time in my career," Wineland said.

Having power is a bonus, but it also can lead to problems. In a way, it's like the pro golfers who can boom it off the tee more than 350 yards, but who have trouble finding the fairway.

Wineland believes he's a far more well-rounded fighter than when he began fighting on the club scene in the Midwest before the sport had any hint of mainstream popularity.

Those kinds of fights were among the most dangerous to take. There was precious little information about opponents available and every bout was a crapshoot. Fighters were left guessing what to expect from their opponents.

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Wineland started off in rocky fashion, 1-2-1 in his first four and 3-4-1 in his first eight. But he's gone 17-4 since and his only losses have come to highly ranked world-class opposition.

But as highly regarded as Wineland was in the WEC's final days, he still needed to prove himself when the WEC was folded into the UFC. He fought in the first bantamweight bout in UFC history in March 2011, but dropped a clear decision to Faber.

Five months later, he lost a decision to Benavidez. He was 0-2 in the UFC, and neither UFC president Dana White nor matchmaker Sean Shelby has a lot of patience with 0-2 fighters.

Wineland got one more chance and took advantage, using his power to knock out the strong-chinned Jorgensen. And he followed that with a victory over Brad Pickett.

It wasn't so much a physical change that led to Wineland's UFC resurgence. It was more of an attitude adjustment.

"I went back to my old mindset of, 'You're not going to hurt me, you're not going to beat me, you're not going to take me down,' " Wineland said. "The guys at New Breed have taught me to be patient. I used to try to force things, and I used to try to rush things and I would panic when I would get caught in a submission.

"But through that work I've done, I've settled down a lot and I'm thinking through things. I'm not trying to force things as much."

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He's a natural counter-puncher, and his results have improved as he's allowed himself to get into position to land his shots. As so many of his opponents have learned over the years, the worst spot to be in a fight with Wineland is on the other end of one of his right hands.

That power could lead him to the title on Saturday, but he's not banking on any one thing.

"Barao is obviously a great fighter and a complete fighter and with a guy like that, you can't be one-dimensional," Wineland said. "I don't think it's a secret I hit hard, and that's one of my advantages, but I'm not just going to load up and try to get lucky. I'm going to fight my plan, try to break him down and take advantage of what I see."

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