Beyond The Odds series shines a spotlight on the intangibles of three fighters for each UFC card. Here are three of the more intriguing fighters competing for UFC on ESPN+ 5 Saturday in London.
The 29 year-old rising star heads into this weekend’s fight against Volkan Oezdemir at UFC London riding a 10-fight winning streak. Reyes, currently sitting as a -270 favorite, and a $9,300 price tag on DraftKings, brings much more to the table than simply his 6’4” frame, 205lbs, and unblemished record. The surging southpaw also has displayed the mental toughness of someone who spent the foundation of a career on the gridiron, and parlayed those skills with a seamless transition into mixed martial arts. Reyes played division 1 football for the Stony Brook Seawolves at the safety position, and remains the school’s all-time leader in solo tackles. In an interview, Reyes shed some light on the similarities and differences between life on the gridiron versus life inside of the Octagon: “If I train hard and do what I have to do in order to prepare myself for an upcoming fight, I should be in position to win. With football, you can do everything right and because of the variety of factors that’s involved in a game; the result may not go in your favor. With MMA, I feel I have a greater control of my destiny.”
It is clear that Reyes has a firm grasp on the trajectory of his career, and owns every moment under the bright lights. He also does not take his opponents lightly. On a recent episode of UFC Unfiltered, Reyes shared “I always like to think I get the best version of whoever I’m fighting.” Reyes, under the tutelage of UFC veteran Cody Donovan, will need all of his resources on deck when he takes on the heavy-handed Oezdemir.
Ian Heinisch’s life is reminiscent of a Phoenix rising from the ashes. The 12-1 middleweight comes in as a +115 underdog with a DraftKings price tag of $7,800 to take on England’s own Tom Breese on short notice. For those who may not know Heinisch’s story, he was a two-time high school state champion wrestler who found himself on the wrong side of the law, and spent multiple years incarcerated for drug related offences both in the US and abroad. Once out of prison, Heinisch took out a new lease on life by the way of mixed martial arts and joined Marc Montoya at Team Factory X in Colorado.
The last time we saw Heinisch in action, he faced Cezar Ferreira in Brazil as a short notice replacement and gave us a glimpse into his relentless pace and spirit, as he marched his adversary down en route to a unanimous victory. This wasn’t the first time we’ve seen Heinisch defeat an opponent in their own backyard. He also thrashed inmates in fight clubs overseas during his stint in the joint. In regards to the mindset he puts himself in when preparing for battle, Heinisch shares “I try to remember the darkest times in my life and just know that my opponent hasn’t been there, and I’ll take ‘em, and I’m willing to die. It’s all the reason, and a lot of guys can’t say that.” Heinisch would be best served implementing a similar mindset if he is to earn a victory over the tough Brit, Breese, on his home turf.
This scrappy 25 year-old Brit with a 13-1 professional record is 4-0 inside of the UFC’s Octagon. Arnold Allen sits as a -150 favorite according to betting odds and has been tapped with a $8,700 Draftkings price tag. The never say die fighting style this Tristar gym veteran implements with Firas Zahabi is a testament to his family lineage. Allen happens to be the son of world-renowned strongman and mixed martial artist, Pacer Allen. We learned a lot about Allen’s character from his previous performances as he grasped victory from the jaws of defeat. Despite being soundly out-grappled by the likes of Makwan Amirkhani and Mads Burnell, Allen never gave up on himself in each instance, and found a way to come out with victories through hard-fought scrambles and letting his hands go. Allen has his work cut out for him this weekend and may have to overcome adversity once again as he faces a grappling heavy Jordan Rinaldi.
All three of these fighters discussed above are prepared to dig deep into their wells of both physical and mental resources to pull out the victory. Enjoy the card this weekend, folks!