Taking the decision to compete in MMA isn’t easy. To then go onto fulfil that promise is even harder. This was proven when former WWE champion CM Punk, real name Phil Brooks, stepped into the UFC octagon. Phil showed us that even a top athlete who wrestled in the WWE for many years couldn’t quite cut it in the world of MMA. There is an argument to be made that Phil’s MMA career was rushed and his opponents were above his skill level. However, former WWE star Jack Swagger, whose real name is Jake Hager, will look to do better this Saturday at Bellator 214 when he makes professional MMA debut. Is Jake going to be good enough or will he suffer a similar fate to CM Punk?
To start off with, Jake has a massive advantage over CM Punk in the fact that he is a former NCAA Division I wrestler and a 2006 All-American at the University of Oklahoma. He’s competed at the highest levels of amateur wrestling in America. Recently, former UFC fighter Dan Henderson stated that wrestling is the best base to have when looking to compete in MMA. Wrestling builds character and is a grind, with high school wrestlers constantly competing each week and having to cut weight. The mentality that is bred through wrestling and the lessons learnt from competing in the sport has proven to transition well over to MMA. Some of the most successful fighters in the heavyweight division had a strong wrestling background, including Daniel Cormier, Cain Velasquez and former WWE champion Brock Lesnar.
Jake has been training since April 2017 for his MMA debut. So far, little is known about Jake’s preparation for the fight but we got a little taste this week at the Bellator open workouts. Footage of Jake training can be found here:
Judging by this video Hager still looks very green and his striking isn’t that sharp. But this is to be expected from someone who has never competed professionally in MMA before. You have to start somewhere and this weekend Hager will be competing against J.W. Kiser. Taking a look at Kiser’s Sherdog profile, as seen by clicking here, he is 42 years old and looks like he could have very well fathered Jake Hager himself. Jake is no spring chicken at 36 years of age, but the physical difference between the two fighters is stark. J.W. Kiser went 1-3 in his amateur career and lost his only professional fight.
The key to victory in this fight for Jake is to secure the takedown. From there, he can either work for a submission or TKO finish. A finish in round 1 would really get people talking and this fight has been geared by Bellator for just that outcome. Out wrestling Kiser to a decision victory would be easy for Jake. But this isn’t what the fans want to see and if Hager is serious about the sport, that isn’t his desired outcome either.
In the media build up to the event, Kiser spoke with MMAJunkie and feels like he is being massively overlooked. This is the sport of MMA and anything can happen. But as cliche as that sounds, Kiser could indeed land that one punch or submission that wins the fight. Hager could look awful and let Kiser outwork him. Anything is possible which is why this fight is so interesting. Especially for those who are more familiar with WWE than they are with MMA.
Prediction: Jake Hager by either TKO or submission in round 1.
Bellator 214 will be headlined by the heavyweight grand prix final as Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko takes on Ryan “Darth” Bader. Our preview for the fight can be found by clicking here.