Strawweight Showdown: Porter vs O'Connor
One of the most highly anticipated fight match-ups on the Journey to the Top 3 card is the strawweight bout between Ken Porter and Danny O'Connor.
With the rising popularity of the flyweight division and it's general acceptance in mainstream MMA, it was only a matter of time before we started seeing strawweights take to the cage. Both fighters have toyed with the idea of dropping down to the strawweight limit of 115-pounds but this will be a first time cut for both fighters.
O'Connor trains out of Berger's MMA and has been with coach and friend Steve Berger since he started his MMA career four years ago. Now on the eve of turning 31, O'Connor has rounded out his skills since and faces his toughest challenge to date in friend, Ken Porter.
"Me and Porter are friends." O'Connor said. "We're not the best of friends, but i talk to him about once a week. We're going to be friendly after."
O'Connor realizes that many consider him an underdog going into the fight.
"Porter has a lot of talent," O'Connor said. "He has more fights than me. He's faster, younger. He's fought tough guys, but I feel I wouldn't have had as much trouble as he did."
"On paper he's going to whip my ass. But paper doesn't tell you everything. No great story has an underdog getting beaten by a better competitor. This is a good story."
While they almost have identical pro records, Porter has had many more fights as an amateur. O'Connor was 4-2 as an amateur with a 5-1 boxing record to boot, whereas Porter logged well over 30 amateur fights before turning pro.
The strength of schedule would give the nod to O'Connor as the combined records of his opponents is better. If you throw out the rematches, O'Connor's opponents have won 15 fights while Porter's opponents have only won 2.
As luck would have it, the two crossed paths this past Saturday at the Adam Muffler event at Chaefitz Arena.
"I saw him at the fights Saturday." O'Connor said. "I talked to him several times. It was awkward. I got to meet his new son, his kid was smiling at me. It's going to be weird but it's going to be a fight."
O'Connor will turn 31 just 16 days after the fight.
"He's going to punch me and I'm going to take him down and choke him," O'Connor said. "But it's not like we can't be friends after. No secret what his game plan is, no secret what my game plan is. This is a classic grappler vs striker where the winner buys drinks."
With a shortage of lighter weight fighters, it was inevitable that the two would cross paths someday. With the possible retirement of Josh Epps, the two got matched up earlier than either expected.
"Epps was supposed to fight me in November and then he was supposed to fight Porter in August, but with Epps bowing out of fighting, we got stuck together." O'Connor said. "When Epps said he was done fighting I told Jenkins we got to find someone else (Jesse) Finney said, 'How about porter?' I had to call Porter and see if that was something he wanted to do. He called me back the next day and said 'can i start promoting it?' and I was like, I guess we're fighting."
Friendship aside the two plan on finally settling something local fans have been wanting to see for many years with a little friendly competition in the cage.
"It's a fight I've been asked about it many times over the years." O'Connor said. "Promoters tried pulling strings. I've been asked about this fight over 100 times as an amateur. We both agreed not to do until we were pros and could make some money on it. "
Porter's coach Jesse Finney believes the timing is finally right for this fight.
"He's been with us off and on for almost two years now." Finney said. "The last nine months he's really dedicated himself. He's always been in good shape. Lately, he's been more consistent."
The added gym time at Finney's MMA and work with experienced coaches like Ryan Sutton, Luigi Fioravanti, and Ezra Lennon have already begun to show dividends for Porter who has looked much more mature inside the cage.
"It's going to be an exciting fight." Finney said. "Ken has better stand-up and wrestling. Ken has better jiujitsu. That's just my feeling on it. This will be the first real test for Dan O'Connor"
Finney, who also co-hosts a MMA Talk show on 101 ESPN, has made it known he enjoy the smaller weight classes and fighters like Josh Sampo who's name pops up frequently on the show.
"I'm a big fan of the lighter divisions." Finney said. "It's constant action. On the downside you don't get the one hitter quitter. That being said, Kenny hits hard. For 115 pounder, he hits hard."
On paper this is an incredible match-up, something we've grown to expect from one of the area's best matchmakers, Jim Jenkins. Jenkins knows how to put together fights the fans want to see, and this one will be sure to draw interest from the local community.
"At the end of the day, the one who wins the end is the fans." Finney said.
MMASF Presents: Journey to the Top 3
Friday, November 1st
Heart of St. Charles - St. Charles, MO
Brady Hovermale vs Jimmy Donahue -- Main Event
Will Shutt vs Alex White -- Co-Main
Ken Porter vs Dan O'Connor
Corey Barreiro vs Hugh Pulley
Malshon Ball vs Wil Alfaro
Brian Klenc vs Nick Sanders
Anthony Boyd vs Micha Sensel
Tre Crawford vs Dillan Schreiter
Irfan Mulabitinovic vs D J Jones
Matt Murphy vs Cody Winistoefer
Photo courtesy of MMA Sports Federation and Jan Speelman-Jenkins