UFC Vegas 45 on Saturday will mark the final UFC event of 2021 as Heavyweights Derrick Lewis and Chris Daukaus will compete. On the prelims, Harry Hunsucker is set to make his return to the octagon in an intriguing matchup with Justin Tafa. I had the opportunity to interview Hunsucker ahead of this fight and here were his responses.
In March, Harry Hunsucker (7-4 overall, 0-1 in the UFC) had a tough task in his UFC debut and squared off with Tai Tuivasa on short notice. After losing by first-round TKO, Hunsucker will be looking to get back into the win column against Justin Tafa. A fighter with extensive amateur experience, Hunsucker likes to get the short done quickly, with all seven of his professional finishes coming in the first round.
Justin Tafa (4-3 overall, 1-3 in the UFC) will also be looking to get back into the win column against Hunsucker. Despite two losses in 2021, Tafa is always a must-watch as he has been in two fantastic fights with Carlos Felipe and Jared Vanderaa this year. A southpaw with dynamite in left-hand, Tafa will likely look to keep this fight standing and earn a KO/TKO against Hunsucker.
Danny Podolsky: First off, how did this fight with Justin Tafa come together? Was he someone who was on your radar, considering you guys have a common opponent in Jared Vanderaa?
Harry Hunsucker: Yeah, so I had tagged him on Instagram and he responded and said he was down to fight. It wasn’t out of beef, I just thought it was a fight that made a lot of sense. Both of us had lost to [Jared] Vanderaa and that we’re a closely matched fight. He’s tough as can be, but I tagged him and it ended up working out for me.
Podolsky: In 11 fights, you have never made it to a second round win or loss. Should be credited to your fighting style or trying to get your opponent out quickly, or is that simply a product of how these fights have played out?
Hunsucker: I think that’s just how it’s played out. You know, when I’m in a fight, I’m looking to finish at any moment and it’s happened to happen early so far.
Podolsky: You have a 100% finish rate in 11 fights with 3 KOs and 4 submissions as a professional. When looking at your game, would you consider yourself to be stronger on the ground or in the standup?
Hunsucker: Back in the day, I used to be mostly a standup guy and mostly a striker, but I’ve gotten very into jiu-jitsu and wrestling. I’ve been doing jiu-jitsu forever, but I really put a big focus on the importance of jiu-jitsu in my game. We’ve finished multiple fights with submissions now and I’ve become a more well-rounded fighter.
Podolsky: You made your amateur debut back in 2009 and became a professional in 2015. In the beginning, did you start training MMA right away, or did you have one specific background and transitioned to MMA?
Hunsucker: After my first few amateur fights was when I really started training. I didn’t know a whole lot for those first two amateur fights. I had only trained for a month for those first two fights and I got finished heavily so I took some time off and decided to start training. Eventually, I came back and won a few fights, then I took a few losses, but we ended up going pro. But, I’ve had levels to my game.
Podolsky: A lot of fighters nowadays have a rush to become a professional right away. However, you had over 10 amateur bouts before turning pro. Do you think more fighters should consider doing this?
Hunsucker: I actually had two more wins and a loss that wasn’t on my record amateur wise so I’ve got almost 25 fights total now so I think that that’s good. I don’t know what Tafa’s record was as an amateur, but I definitely think I have edge in terms of experience.
Podolsky: Stylistically, how do you think you compare to Justin Tafa seeing as though both of you guys like to strike?
Hunsucker: The first big takeaway that I got is that he’s a southpaw and I’ve fought a few southpaws before so it’s a different deal whenever your fighting someone with that stance. He’s also got power where he can finish at any time. I’ve fought guys that have been tough always, but he’s another one of those guys where he’s tough as nails.
Podolsky: You took your UFC debut on four days notice against a very tough opponent in Tai Tuivasa. How much of a difference does it make having a full camp for this fight?
Hunsucker: You know I’ve prepared my whole life. When I got those short-notice opportunities, I had just come out of fights both times. I usually take the week off after a fight and eat whatever I want and drink a little too heavy. So, when they offer the fight on short-notice, I have to tighten everything up quickly. Even with a week to ten days, it’s a lot of pressure on short notice especially on the largest stage in the world. I’ve got four losses on my pro record and three of them are in short notice. The only fight that I lost where I had a full camp was against Don’Tale Mayes. My pro debut, my opponent changed 24 hours before the fight. I was supposed to be fighting a boxer and ended up fighting a wrestler and I was unprepared for that one. The reason I ended up going pro was because I had a ton of amateur fights drop out on me. Since I met my coach, I’ve won all my fights except my two on short-notice in the UFC.
Podolsky: You’re from Cleveland and obviously the Heavyweight GOAT Stipe Miocic is as well. Is he someone who you look up to as a fighter?
Hunsucker: Absolutely I look up to Stipe [Miocic], especially since he’s such an awesome person as well. I would love to be able to go up there and train with him sometime.
Podolsky: Are you seeing this fight a must-win? If you lose you’ll be 0-2 with the promotion and the UFC can be unforgiving when it comes to their roster?
Hunsucker: Not really, man. I think that once they see me fight on a full camp, they’ll be impressed. [Justin] Tafa is 1-3 in the UFC and he just got his contract renewed to fight me. I think that when I show up, whether I win or lose, they want to see me fight again and ride out my deal. I’m not going in there to lose on December 18th and I’m not worried about the pressure, I’m just going in there to perform. There aren’t excuses anymore, this is my fair shot on a full camp so I’m ready to fight.
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