Mark Bocek - Confident and Keeping it Real
When you are a traveling athlete, competing in your own country and close to home can only be a boost to your confidence. This is true for Mark Bocek, who meets Brazilian Rafael dos Anjos in Montreal at UFC 154 this Saturday. Not too far from his Toronto stomping grounds, Bocek has gone 3-1 in Montreal and has even garnered a Submission of the Night victory over Dustin Hazelett there at UFC 124. Needless to say, Bocek feels a bit sentimental on his return to Montreal, where the mix of wins and losses remind him of his previous UFC inexperience and eventual ascension.
ďYeah Montreal is close to my home,Ē he said. ďMy loss here to Mac Danzig, I was still starting. It was my seventh MMA fight and I was still learning. I still am (learning), but I was extremely green at the time. But my last time here I got Submission of the Night and Iíd love to get a repeat. Iíd love to end this fight in the first round but Dos Anjos is kind of a dark horse under the radar, and heís a very tough opponent. Iíd love to get a finish in the first round but Iím prepared to go all three.Ē
Currently on a two-fight winning streak, Bocek has quickly rebounded from a unanimous decision loss following the Hazelett win to Ben Henderson. Defeating Nik Lentz at UFC 140 and John Alessio at UFC 145, both via unanimous decision, Bocek is ready to extend that streak to three in his home country.
ďThose were my first two fights with Tristar (Gym). Lentz is a tough guy with a tight guillotine and he actually had me in a tight guillotine in the second round but I was able to kind of control the top position and squeak out a victory. It wasnít maybe the most fan friendly fight, but I was coming off that decision loss to Benson (Henderson) and just winning was the priority for me at the time,Ē said Bocek soberly. ďAlessio was a last minute replacement for my first opponent, Matt Wiman, but Iíve seen him around for many years, never looked at him too closely but knew heíd be a tough guy. I knew heíd be a good striker so I figured Iíd just out wrestle him because I knew Iíd have the edge in the wrestling and jiu-jitsu areas.Ē
Bocek is one of the rare athletes that can claim instructing both Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which in retrospect is undoubtedly an ironic factoid now that he fights for their organization. As a submission specialist, he had a chance to prove himself to the owners of the UFC way before actually competing for them and perhaps even opened their eyes to the possibilities of the ground game.
ďThey were already MMA fans at the time, and they were already diehard about the sport. Maybe they didnít understand the intricacies about grappling or about what it takes to be efficient in that area. I wasnít their first instructor but I was kind of there during their brief introduction you can say. Like I said, they were already fans, but I think I opened their minds a little to the subtle nuances of grappling.Ē
Bocekís next challenge lies in dos Anjos who also is on two-fight winning streak after a decision loss to Gleison Tibau at UFC 139. His last two bouts, against Kamal Shalorus and Anthony Njokuani, resulted in a first round rear naked choke and unanimous decision victory, respectively. However, Bocek kept it real with expressing his feelings about dos Anjosí submission prowess, and that his last two wins were far from an indicator of the Brazilianís problematic status and were less challenging fights in comparison to him.
ďI think his biggest weakness is going to be jiu-jitsu, but thatís just me looking at it from one BJJ guy to another. Another person might look at that as a kind of crazy thing to say but thatís kind of how I look at it. (Kamal) Shalorus is at the end of his career pretty much so itís hard to get much from that win. (Anthony) Njokuani, most people that have cardio and can wrestle and avoid strikes with Njokuani are going to out wrestle him and beat him. Now that heís paired up against a guy that can wrestle and grapple as well, I think people are going to start to see his weaknesses.Ē
However, Bocek does recognize the strengths of his opponent while still letting his confidence ring through.
ďHeís shown some versatility, and he comes from BJJ like myself. Heís shown a good evolution in his game, heís on a two fight win streak just like me, and he seems to be pretty well-rounded, so it looks like it will be a tough test but Iíve been training very hard. Iíve been at Tristar for the past five weeks, so Iíve had a lot of southpaws to work with and a lot of BJJ guys to work with and I plan on edging him out in every area. Heís used to being in bad positions and fighting out of them, but when I look at it, my analysis overall is that there is nothing aside from his kicking ability that stands out to me as something that he is incredible at. I think he is good all-around but I donít think heís great at anything. I think Iím better in every area than he is.Ē
Having now been on the big stage for over five years consistently, Bocek is at a good place in his life. With a winning streak and the opportunity to extend it in front of his countrymen on a card that boasts the return of Georges St-Pierre, Bocek is ready for Saturday.
ďI feel good. I got in the UFC really early and pretty green in my career and Iíve never lost two fights in a row. Every loss Iíve had Iíve taken something from it, Iíve improved, gotten motivated, and gotten hungrier. Iíve taken this one very seriously and Iím very happy where Iím at right now and I look forward to this one. This oneís going to be very fun. I want to put on an exciting fight, I want to get the Ďwí and thatís first and foremost why Iím here. And I feel with a win here I deserve to be in the top ten.Ē