When asked how teammate Dan Hooker defeats Al Iaquinta at UFC 243 this weekend, City Kickboxing’s B.J. Bland gave a very specific answer.
“I think he might hit that knee again to be honest,” he told Fight News Australia.
His confidence in that strike and Iaquinta’s tendency to “dip low” is backed by his own firsthand experience with it last year.
“My missing teeth are courtesy of a Dan Hooker knee during a sparring session. It was leading up to the Jim Miller fight – when Dan was fighting Jim Miller. Jim Miller’s a stocky southpaw, as am I, so we were spending a lot of rounds sparring together. It was nothing malicious, just one of those freak timings.
“He caught me with it a week before the Jim Miller fight, and then when he fought Jim Miller, he caught him with the exact same strike and put him out.”
Bland said he felt Miller’s pain, though fortunately he’d been significantly more protected.
“We were fully padded, too, like sparring headgear, Dan had knee pads, and he didn’t even load up. It was just a good strike. It broke high up in the root, so there was no root canal, or no option but to take the teeth out basically and give me a plate.”
“Quicksand” joins Hooker and a cohort of other City Kickboxing teammates fighting this weekend in Melbourne. In what looks to be a superb appetiser for UFC 243, he will compete at Eternal MMA 48 at Melbourne Pavilion on Friday night. According to Bland, the New Zealand gym has certainly felt special leading up to the two events.
“There’s a massive buzz at the gym with so many of the boys fighting on the UFC, few of us fighting on Eternal, and a couple of other boys fought last week as well. So there’s just been a huge group of us all getting ready at the same time. It’s been really cool. There’s a pretty special vibe at the gym at the moment.”
“Anytime [Alexander Volkanovski] and Frankie Hickman from Tiger Muay Thai come over, they always bring a really cool, positive energy. They’ve been over for the majority of it. That’s been one of the highlights. Pretty much every session, all the boys are pushing real hard, grinding.”
Bland (13-10) will meet Australian Abel Brites (12-6) in a “super lightweight” bout at 165lb. It’s a fight he expects to be as exciting as his last.
“He definitely hasn’t padded his record. I think he’s a good fighter, he’s very crafty. I think he’s got a lot of clever little tricks and set-ups that he uses, so I’m gonna have to be well aware and on my game the entire fight. I think he’s a good fighter and it’ll be a good name to get on my record.”
Last December, Bland had a back and forth contest with Callan Potter, who then went on to sign with the UFC after edging the razor close decision. Although he admits he doesn’t believe he’d have been granted the same opportunity if he’d been on the fortunate side of it, Bland feels closer than ever to making the next step in his career.
“I’m under no illusions, I can definitely hang with the guys in the UFC. I feel my skill level and physical capabilities are up there, I just need to put it all together and build a good win streak to join my teammates.”
Stacked with four title bouts, Eternal MMA 48 will be the Australian promotion’s first to broadcast live on UFC Fight Pass after recently inking a multi-event deal. It takes place at Melbourne Pavilion on Friday, October 4. Headlining the card is a middleweight title fight between champion Isi Fitikefu (5-0) and Kitt Campbell (10-3).