There aren't many strikers on the UFC roster more dynamic than John Makdessi.
"The Bull" comes from an extremely accomplished background in martial arts, where he's developed some of the best spinning back kicks and one of the most unpredictable arsenals of striking in MMA today.
He's just as capable of knocking you out with a simple counter as a nasty spinning back fist.
Makdessi seemed poised to take over the lightweight division before a pair of consecutive losses put a damper on his prospects as a contender, but he bounced back in a big way by dominating Sam Stout in a lopsided decision victory last November at UFC 154.
Now, the Tristar fighter is looking to continue his winning ways against an equally dangerous striker in Daron Cruickshank, who's coming off an ESPN top 10 Sportcenter-worthy knockout victory of his own.
Makdessi spoke with MMAmania.com during a special guest appearance on The Verbal Submission about his lack of gameplans, beating opponents at their own game and how high he believes his ceiling is in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): In your study, what did you think of Daron Cruickshank's knockout in his last fight? I'm interested in your opinion considering how well-versed your striking background is.
John Makdessi: Yeah, that's the name of the game. He got caught and that's what happens. If you get caught, you get caught. Fighting is a complex sport and there's a lot of things behind it. You've really got to stay sharp. stay focused and watching footage gives you more or less an idea of your opponent but I truly believe that I don't need a gameplan. I don't rely on a gameplan. I truly believe the best gameplan is no gameplan. The reason why we train repetitively every day is to prepare our bodies for any situation so sometimes going into a fight with a gameplan and having it not work out, fighters panic. I trust in my training, I trust in my coaches and I believe in my skills. I just try to make sure I'm mentally and physically there 100 percent on fight night and make for an exciting fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your head coach Firas Zahabi is widely known for creating excellent strategy for fighters. Does your ideology of being more reactive conflict with the top coaches at all?
John Makdessi: It's a little bit more than that. Of course, Firas has strategy and gameplan and I have an idea in my head of what I focus on. That being said, I don't just rely on certain techniques. A gameplan is what you practice in the gym and you've got situations and scenarios. That's a gameplan. I'm aware of all the situations but at the end of the day, when you go in a fight, anything can happen so of course it's tough to prepare for everything. My plan is very simple. You have lots of situations and scenarios. We spar and all that stuff to prepare us for fight night. That's how I view a gameplan in my head.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): In your last two fights, you had to deal with strikers who were trying to take you down. Both Sam Stout and Anthony Njokuani shot in for several takedowns which surprised a lot of people. While Daron Cruickshank has a dynamic striking style, he also can and will take fighters down with his wrestling background. Is that something you're prepared for because he's made no bones about it that he wants to test your wrestling ability?
John Makdessi: Just like any other fighter that wants to test my wrestling. I welcome the challenge. I get tested in the gym every day. There's no secret to the fighting game. I believe in my skills and the thing is I work every day, am committed and dedicated to become a better fighter every day. Just because in my fights you don't see me taking down fighters, I'm the type of fighter who's training philosophy is I want to outstrike a striker, outwrestle a wrestler and outgrapple a grappler. That's my philosophy. That's the way I go about things. That's what I did in my last fight. I was very happy with my performance. I outstruck Sam Stout and I outwrestled Sam Stout.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Did it bug you that Stout said after the fight that he thought you weren't trying to fight him the whole time despite how much you outstruck him?
John Makdessi: Yeah, there's a difference between running away and footwork, countering and timing in my opinion. It's a fight, 50/50 win or lose. I don't focus on the outcome, I focus on the process and I try to bring something different into the game that people have never seen before. I try to use speed, footwork, boxing, head movement. I try to consider myself a technical fighter and I try to give the fans a show, something they've never seen before. Anybody can go out there and take somebody down, but what does that prove? Not much. My job is to showcase the real fighting game, the art of fighting. It's not just beating each other up.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You train alongside Mike Ricci at Tristar and he's someone who actually fought Cruickshank before they both appeared on The Ultimate Fighter. Was he able to offer some insight on him?
John Makdessi: Yeah, we spoke and obviously he found out I was fighting Cruickshank and he had a fight coming up too so he had to focus on that as well. We did spar together, train together and we talked. The thing is, Mike Ricci has evolved a lot since that Cruickshank fight and the whole goal of MMA is to improve. If you're not improving as a fighter, something is wrong. I'd retire from fighting if I wasn't improving. Every day I learn something. That's my goal, my focus is to get better. I always want to be unpredictable and keep developing my skills. I truly believe I haven't hit my full potential yet and that's some dangerous stuff.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How high do you think the ceiling is yet on what you're capable of accomplishing in the lightweight division?
John Makdessi: Well considering I'm still new to the MMA world, I turned pro at the age of 23 and I'm 27 now. That being said, that's not many years of competing in the sport of MMA. Some people take a whole lifetime to learn a skill and there's so much to learn. I am evolving every day, my grappling, my judo and I really want to consider myself a mixed martial artist. My conditioning, my athletic abilities, there's always room for improvement.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Cruickshank has a pretty impressive striking background in the martial arts, just like you do and he recently said that there's nothing you will bring to the cage on Saturday that's new to him. Do you think he's overlooking what you're capable of?
John Makdessi: I hope to god he underestimates me. Everyone has to tune in March 16th to find out what happened.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I'm sure you heard about the Georges St. Pierre/Nick Diaz conference call last week. What I'd like to know is, what was St. Pierre like in training that day or the next day when he came into Tristar after that call because that was pretty wild?
John Makdessi: Georges has a lot of experience. He's been through this many times, so many scenarios. He's a great ambassador for the sport and he was smiling at the gym and having fun in his training getting through everything.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Did you guys rib him at all about anything he said?
John Makdessi: No, at Tristar gym, we take things very seriously. We don't talk bad about anybody. We all focus and perform in the gym and work hard. Everyone has their fight to fight. I'm fighting my fight, Georges is fighting his fight and Ricci is fighting his. We're all focusing on our fights and what we've got coming up on March 16th.
John would like to thank his team at Tristar and his coach Firas Zahabi, his sponsors, Fear the Fighter and his brother David. You can check out his facebook fanpage John "The Bull" Makdessi and you can follow him on twitter @JohnMakdessiMMA.