THE hardest opponent to beat is the one who knows you inside out, and that is the situation that confronts Dubbo-born UFC fighter Kyle Noke on Sunday.
The 36-year-old will take on Russian Omari Akhmedov in one of the major bouts at UFC Fight Night Melbourne on a card that has a definite Aussie flavour to it.
Akhmedov is a former training partner of Noke at Team Jackson in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and his style of fighting ensures the bout will be well worth watching.
“I’ve trained with Omari a lot over the past three or four years,” Noke said from Melbourne during the week.
“When my original opponent pulled out of the fight due to injury and Omari was put forward we were both hesitant but we spoke to each other about it, agreed to go in and give it our best, and when it’s all said and done we’ll still be friends.
...part of my strategy will be to keep some distance between us and put my foot in his face as often as possible.Kyle Noke
“It’s going to be a challenge though because he knows my strengths and weaknesses but in saying that I know his as well. It will be a good fight.”
The main thing on Noke’s radar will be to avoid getting tagged by Akhmedov, who has a 16-3 record with almost half of his wins coming via knockout or TKO.
“He swings for the fences and has good power so I have to be mindful of that,” Noke said.
“That’s probably his main strength but in saying that he does have a good overall game. He has submitted guys and is capable in all areas of MMA.”
Noke’s biggest advantage will come in reach, and it is that area the man they call “Nasty” will be keen to dominate.
He stopped Peter Sobotta with a crunching body kick at the corresponding event last year and will be keen to maintain some distance between himself and Akhmedov.
“You have to make the most of anything that is in your favour when you step into the Octagon so part of my strategy will be to keep some distance between us and put my foot in his face as often as possible,” Noke said.
“The rest of my strategy I’ll keep to myself. He already knows enough about me, I have to try and take him by surprise.”
One of the biggest surprises of the week came on Wednesday when Noke joined fellow fighters Robert Whittaker and Jake Matthews for a cross-promotion soccer session with Melbourne City.
The former league player showed off an array of skills involving fancy footwork, and admitted it was a good chance to unwind ahead of the fight.
“My camp has been intense with trips from the Sunny Coast to the USA and back, and changing opponents, so to get that opportunity was great,” Noke said of the soccer session.
“It’s awesome for the UFC to put on events like that, it just breaks everything up and the Melbourne City guys were awesome. They offered me Tim Cahill’s spot but I had to knock them back.”