Jonathan Martinez accomplished a couple of firsts on Saturday night: his first finish in the UFC and his first performance bonus.
“Dragon” picked up a highlight-reel knockout win over Pingyuan Liu during the preliminary portion of UFC Sacramento. Martinez landed a vicious knee in the third round to put a stop to the action and pick up the biggest win of his career to date.
After losing his short-notice UFC debut to Andre Soukhamthath at UFC Fight Night 138 in October, Martinez picked up his first UFC win when he defeated Wuliji Buren via unanimous decision at UFC 234 in February. With a little more experience and wisdom under his belt, Martinez entered the Octagon on Saturday night and delivered an emphatic finish — one he was watched quite a bit.
“Honestly, (I’ve watched it) a lot,” Martinez told The Body Lock. “My girl will be like, ‘You don’t get bored?’ and I’ll just smile at my phone (shaking my head). It looks fake to me. I used to watch UFC watch all the videos and looking at all of them. Now I just look at myself and it’s pretty cool.
“It kind of looked like (I was) a superhero. You’re just like, ‘Damn, that looks pretty good.'”
Liu, who trains at Team Alpha Male, entered the contest as the hometown favorite, and also with a 10-fight winning streak that began over six years prior. Liu entered the UFC last year, picking up back-to-back victories over Damian Stasiak and Martin Day in his quest to climb the bantamweight rankings. Martinez was well aware of what Liu brought to the fight and, while it wasn’t at the top of his mind to thwart Liu’s plans and current winning streak, it was a cherry on the proverbial sundae.
“It was good because I knew he had a lot of wins,” Martinez said. “I didn’t have any pressure or anything like that. I just knew I had to go in there and do my job. I trained hard for this. I would get beat up in the gym all the time. So I didn’t feel any pressure at all, I just felt great.”
Finding calmness and clarity at Factory X
Following his UFC debut, Martinez made the move to Factory X in Colorado to train under the tutelage of Marc Montoya. With the change, Martinez has felt more and more comfortable in and out of the Octagon. As a soft-spoken member of the UFC roster, the 25-year-old felt more relaxed than he ever has when he entered the cage Saturday night.
“When I started training at Factory X, I felt a lot more comfortable going in there,” Martinez said. “This one, I was really calm. I walked in the cage and it was like nothing, like it was just a sparring day. I felt pretty good.”
The trust and belief Martinez has found in the coaching staff at Factory X has certainly helped him tap into his potential on another level. While a majority of fighters are locked into what is happening in front of them, Martinez is able to find clarity with his team on the outside of the cage. It’s never perfect, as Martinez admits, but the game plan would ultimately play out in his favor on Saturday night.
“I kept seeing him, (I’d) throw the jab and he kept leaning down,” Martinez explained. “I heard one of the coaches say he was leaning down. I faked the jab and I threw the knee. Right when I felt him touch it, I saw him move back, it was almost like it was in slow motion. I was like, ‘he’s done.’ I got real excited so I threw a hook and jumped one more. But yeah, it was pretty good.
“I hear my coaches well when they talk to me. In the second round, my coach were telling me to do some stuff and I didn’t listen. I should’ve listened. My leg was hurting and I didn’t trust myself. I could hear everything they say. That knee was something we worked on pretty much the whole time I was up there (at Factory X). We just kept working it over and over again because we kept waiting for him to shoot in to throw it, but he was waiting for me to counter. That’s pretty much what happened.”
‘I was hoping the rest of the fights would go to decision’
Following the win, Martinez knew that his knockout was as impressive as everyone watching believed it to be. With a $50,000 performance bonus potentially in his grasp, Martinez was hoping that the judges sitting cage side at UFC Sacramento would be very busy for the rest of the night. Unfortunately, the last three fights of the night all featured impressive finishes from the likes of Josh Emmett, Urijah Faber, and Germaine de Randamie.
Martinez had begun to accept the fact a bonus may not come his way and that made it all that more satisfying when he received the good news.
“Yeah, I was (watching the rest of the card closely). I was hoping all of the rest of the fights would go to a decision,” Martinez laughingly said. “I kept making jokes saying, ‘hopefully they give me a submission of the night, knockout of the night’. Then they told me I got it and I was excited. I was seeing (Emmett, Faber and de Randamie) get their knockouts and I thought they were bigger than me and the UFC will give it to them. Then my manager told me I got it.”
Tackling the bigger fish in the deep bantamweight division
Following the bonus winning finish, Martinez is turning his attention to some bigger fish in the deep waters of the bantamweight division. Speaking to the media following his victory, Martinez said he has his sights set on Rani Yahya, a submission specialist who is no stranger to having a standup battle. With Yahya having a name and being a perennial top-15 guy in the division, Martinez hopes that matchup can come to fruition in the next few months.
“He’s up there and he likes to brawl, too,” Martinez said of Yahya. “I like people who fight like that. I think it would be an exciting fight so hopefully I get that fight.
“I’d like to get back in there in October. I don’t know what card, honestly. Whatever card is cool with me. Hopefully, I get to fight (Rani).”