Undefeated, highly-touted, and making his eagerly anticipated Octagon debut, Shane del Rosario apparently had the world at his feet before his UFC 146 bout with fellow unbeaten Stipe Miocic in May, and the dominant first round he had in this clash of heavyweight prospects didn’t throw things off in the slightest.
Of course, there were no trumpets blaring to announce the Californian’s arrival, but he did play a steady beat on Miocic in those opening five minutes with thudding kicks to the body that drew oohs and aahs from the Las Vegas crowd.
“I remember I got him with one body shot and if you’ve ever been hit in the body, you know that hurts more than getting hit in the head,” said Del Rosario, a former pro kickboxer. “I remember seeing his face and thinking ‘okay, that one hurt him.’ But he weathered it and by the time the second round came around, my legs were just spent.”
All of a sudden, everything came crashing down for the newcomer. He had an adrenalin dump, Miocic’s iron chin (and apparently iron body) wore him out, and it was all too clear that after 14 months out of action due to injuries suffered in an automobile accident, everything caught up to him at the wrong time. And Miocic, being a top level heavyweight, took advantage, immediately starting off round two with a takedown.
“I remember when he shot that first takedown I was thinking ‘oh s**t, this is MMA,’” Del Rosario laughs. “I hit the ground and I’m like ‘what am I doing?’ And what’s funny is I saw him hit that single leg on a lot of his opponents and I was training that single leg defense every day. I totally blanked mentally and he did a good job luring me in with the standup game. He was very strong, he was able to stay on top of me, and one thing I learned as well that was different in the UFC was that in Strikeforce there were no elbows on the floor. In the UFC, that definitely changes the game and you can’t sit there and take shots. At that point, I was gassed and I wasn’t at the level I needed to be.”
At 3:14 of the second round, Del Rosario’s 11-0 record turned to 11-1 due to Miocic’s TKO win, but the affable Irvine resident still looks at his first UFC experience as a positive one, even if he was surprised at how things ultimately turned out.
“It was a huge fight night and the energy around that night was really great,” he said. “I was excited and honored to be part of it. With that being said, I was out for a year and that brings a lot of nerves to the table, as well as it being my first fight in the UFC. My interview question from everybody for that fight was ‘are you gonna have the UFC jitters?’ (Laughs) I said I don’t know about that, I’m a professional, and this is going to be almost my 20th fight, so I think I’ll be okay. But definitely, you’re on a huge stage and it’s a lot more pressure and I felt it. And not only that, but he was a great opponent, and I think if we fought again it would be a very tough fight and I’m sure it will happen someday. But I’m just getting back to how I used to be. I’m actually training how I used to for all my previous fights, and I’m just in a lot better place this time around. So it definitely was a wake-up call. I needed to be at a better level when I get into the cage, and I needed to get fully recovered and be at a hundred percent coming in because the competition is top level right now. So I take my last loss as a blessing, knowing that I need to come back stronger and be myself come my next fight.”
That’s not the reaction you usually get from an undefeated prospect who has suffered his first loss, but maybe after the car accident which threatened not just his career, but his life, Del Rosario can look at things such as losses as just minor bumps in the road, not impassable roadblocks. And the way he tells it, as soon as he got back to the locker room after the Miocic fight, it was time to put the loss aside and move on.
“I was getting stitched up and I thought ‘all right, you got your nerves out of the way, you got your ass kicked the first time. Now let’s go back to the gym and get to work and make sure that it doesn’t happen again for a long time,’” he recalled, and he followed through on the first part of getting back in the gym with Colin Oyama and Team Oyama, along with the Sports Science Lab and the California Republic Academy of Wrestling.
The next step? A Saturday fight with an old acquaintance, Pat Barry.
“It’s gonna be a good test,” said Del Rosario of the bout on the main card of the Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale. “He’s a great fighter, a great kickboxer, and I thought of it as a good test for me because it’s a chance for me to step up and perform. We had a chance to spar a little bit out in Brock Lesnar’s camp. We all went out there to be his sparring partners for the Cain Velasquez fight and we got to mess around a little bit. Nothing intense, but I remember thinking that if he’s in the UFC and a very good kickboxer, it probably would be a good fight, but it never went past that. And here we are now. They called with this fight and it’s gonna happen.”
On paper, this one is likely to be fast and explosive, with two of the better strikers in the division throwing punches and kicks until one of them falls down. But then again, we’ve said that about other matchups before and the fights turned into wrestling matches. What’s Del Rosario’s take on that phenomenon?
“We’re both kickboxers and that’s our main strength, and so a lot of times you’ll resort to what you’re best at,” he said. “So I think on paper, people could say I have a few submissions, so my ground game’s better than his, but I think we’re two kickboxers that are gonna go in there and try to knock each other out. Who knows, he might shoot on me and I might shoot on him. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Yet with Del Rosario coming off a loss and Barry in the midst of a skid where he’s dropped three of his last four, the fighters just may go for whatever works in search of a quick trip back to the win column. Or, they could let ego get in the way and decide to test each other’s striking acumen. Either way, it makes for a compelling scrap.
“For me, it’s not an ego thing at all, but you are walking a fine line because number one, it is a sport, but it’s also the entertainment business and before the fight (UFC president) Dana (White) will come down to the locker room and say ‘put on a good show.’ And so I definitely think that if me and Pat Barry stand, it’s gonna be a great show for the fans. At the same time, we’re both coming off losses, so we both need to win bad. It doesn’t go very well in the UFC for you if you lose two or three in a row. And I just got here, so I want to make a run at it, and number one for me is to win. But I definitely want to put on a good show and stand with him.”
“This time around I think I’ll be able to relax a little bit more,” said the 29-year-old Del Rosario. “I’m definitely excited to be back and it feels good that they called me back with this fight. I think it’s a huge fight for me, and I’m excited.”
A More Relaxed Del Rosario is Eager for His Second Trip to the Octagon
"I take my last loss as a blessing, knowing that I need to come back stronger and be myself come my next fight." - Shane Del Rosario
Watch Past Fights
Sunday, December 4
Las Vegas, Nevada