Leila Navidi / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, Jan. 1, 2010 | midnight
- Complete Coverage: UFC 108
- Live Blog: Evans takes decision win after wild third round
- Rashad Evans: No, this isn't happening again
- Paul Daley apologizes for overboard celebration, kind of
- UFC 108 Predictions
- Breaking down UFC 108: Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva
- Breaking down UFC 108: Paul Daley vs. Dustin Hazelett
- Fireside chat with UFC president Dana White
- Slideshow: UFC 108 arrivals at MGM Grand
- Change in opponent was deja vu for Martin Kampmann
- Rashad Evans says Rampage rivalry won't fade
Dustin Hazelett always finds out about things at the last minute.
His last fight at UFC 106 was canceled the day before the weigh-in, when Karo Parisyan pulled out because of personal reasons. Now, he's accepted an offer to fight Paul Daley in the co-main event of Saturday's UFC 108 card on just three weeks notice.
And when main event fighter Thiago Silva couldn't make the UFC 108 arrivals Tuesday at the MGM Grand, it was Hazelett that got the last-minute call, requesting he fill in.
"I found out I needed to be here about 30 minutes ago," said Hazelett, who was greeted by hundreds of fans at the MGM Grand lobby. "I was eating when they called and I was like, 'If my food gets here in time I can make it.'
"This is crazy. I'm not used to this kind of attention but I'm happy to do it. The fans really drive the sport."
Hazelett doesn't say 'no' often when the sport asks for something. Not after what it's already done for him.
After switching to a public school from a private Christian school in sixth grade in eastern Kentucky, the then-undersized Hazelett was an easy target for bullies.
Things got so bad for Hazelett that he has said he even considered suicide while still in middle school It wasn't until he began taking jiu-jitsu classes and practicing in his parents' garage that his confidence and life turned around.
"Martial arts, for me, is more than just fighting," said Hazelett at Wednesday's press conference. "It's a lot more than just winning fights. Obviously, that's the glamorous part, but it really has saved my life."
Saturday marks a huge opportunity for the 23-year-old welterweight.
A win over Daley (22-8-2) should catapult Hazelett (14-4) towards the top of the division, as Daley is riding high following a TKO win over Martin Kampmann in his UFC debut in September.
Despite having a short amount of time to prepare for Saturday's fight, Hazelett said he obviously was still in fight mode after his previous bout in November was canceled and he feels well prepared.
"It wasn't too bad. I like shorter camps anyway," Hazelett said. "I took a week or so off and then I put together a really good camp. I think overall it was good for me to not have (the Parisyan fight). I was obviously disappointed when I found out but I trusted God's plan and now this is a bigger opportunity for me."
Saturday will be Hazelett's first time in the octagon since an impressive victory over Tamdan McCrory in November 2008 that earned him Submission of the Night honors.
Shortly after that fight, surgery to fix a torn ACL in his right knee sidelined Hazelett for five months.
The injury came at an unfortunate time for Hazelett, who certainly was on the rise after having won four of his last five fights.
The first appearance back from that kind of layoff can be a concern for a fighter and his camp. But after already having his first comeback pulled at UFC 106, Hazelett said he couldn't be looking forward more to his return Saturday.
"The biggest turning point in my career was the surgery and the layoff," Hazelett said. "I'm just happy to be fighting again and coming back. I'm not as concerned with the business aspects of it. I just fight because I love fighting."
As hard as anyone tries to label this fight as more than a classic 'Striker vs. Grappler' fight, that's exactly what it is.
Out of Daley's 22 wins as a professional, 17 have come by way of knockout or TKO. No matter what type of opponent he comes across, Daley readily admits his plan is to keep the fight standing.
"It would be ignorant for me to not train on the ground, but more so than that I've trained to keep the fight standing," Daley said. "Nothing has changed too much, my game plan is always to keep the fight standing."
Hazelett couldn't be more different, recording just one knockout win in his professional career.
He ranks fourth all-time in submission attempts per minute in UFC history and has a 31 percent success rate.
The fight will hinge on Hazelett's ability to stay out of trouble on his feet and get Daley to the ground where he becomes much less dangerous. If both fighters are successful in canceling out each other's strengths, it could also come down to which of them has the better second option.
"If Plan A does fail, which I highly doubt it will, of me knocking him out and keeping the fight standing," Daley said. "There is a Plan B."
Last Time Out:
Daley: First round win by TKO over Martin Kampmann at UFC 103.
Hazelett: First round win by submission over Tamdan McCrory at UFC 91.
The Lines: Daley, EVEN; Hazelett, minus-120
Daley: On his original opponent, Carlos Condit, dropping out because of injury, "He was a WEC champion. He came in and Kampmann beat him, then I beat Kampmann and I was looking forward to fighting him but that didn't work out."
Hazelett: On how he got through the long layoff financially, "It was hard. I had a couple Submission of the Night bonuses to help me get through it. But being able to fight again is definitely going to help me out."