ABU DHABI – Joaquin Buckley is unfazed by a recent late change in opponent – in fact, he prefers his new matchup.
Originally scheduled to face Abu Azaitar this Saturday at UFC on ESPN+ 37, Buckley (10-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) will now face undefeated Dana White’s Contender Series graduate Impa Kasanganay.
But the switch-up doesn’t come as a surprise for Buckley (10-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC), who says he kind of saw it coming. In Kasanganay (8-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), Buckley sees an active and hungry fighter, and that is the kind of matchup that motivates him.
“When they changed my opponent, I kind of already seen it coming because he’s used to pulling out of fights,” Buckley told MMA Junkie. “Abu, his last fight that he had was from two years prior, and that was from a fight that he had pulled out of before he had had it, so I kind of had an itchy feeling that he was going pull out.
“Impa is a dog; he’s going to really try to bring the fight, which is always going to make it better. I feel like Abu wasn’t really going to bring the fight to me once he realized he’s not going to be a game athlete compared to me and pretty much quit just like he quit not coming into the fight, so Impa is just a game opponent, and I just love the drive in another fighter and it helps drive me to fight even harder.”
Since earning a UFC contract in August, Kasanganay has already notched his first UFC win and is now jumping back in the cage once again for his third fight in just two months.
But Buckley, a Bellator and LFA veteran, thinks his experience will be too much for Kasanganay.
“I get to hand him his first lesson, his first loss,” Buckley said. “It’s going to feel real good because it’s going to make him better. I think he has got a lot of potential, but he’s just not there yet. He’s only been training for two or three years. He’s coming out of a football career, which is cool and all, but at the same time, I’ve been doing this since I was 18. This has been my career for a long time, and I’m just the more experienced and skilled fighter.
“We’re just on two different levels. I feel like it’s either going to be an early finish or a long, dragged out to the third round and me winning all three rounds. I don’t really see what Impa can do to me, definitely not in the striking or grappling aspect because we are similar fighters, but I’m just better everywhere.”
UFC on ESPN+ 37 takes place Saturday at Flash Forum at Yas Island. The card streams in its entirety on ESPN+.