Bravado comes packed inside those fingerless, four-ounce gloves of a mixed martial artist. Honesty isn't as forthright in the days leading up to a fight, so it's refreshing to hear Gian Villante, a top light heavyweight prospect from Levittown, accurately state what those who understand the sport's complexities already know.
"If I do what I'm capable of doing, I don't care who it is," Villante said. "It's a matter of me translating it into the cage. That's something I've had trouble with."
Villante (8-3) gets another chance to work things out Saturday when he fights Trevor Smith (9-1) in a Strikeforce bout in Las Vegas. The undercard bout will air on Showtime Extreme, beginning at 8 p.m. as part of the network's free preview weekend.
Villante, a former football player and wrestler at Hofstra, developed a reputation for his knockout power while winning both the heavyweight and light heavyweight titles in Ring of Combat, a well-regarded New Jersey-based regional MMA promotion.
He debuted in Strikeforce last February and that fight instantly turned into a slugfest. Wildly exciting for fans, thoroughly frustrating for Villante and his supporters. Yes, Villante, 26, can throw a punch, but as he moves up in competition level, so can his opponents.
His second fight opened with takedowns but slowly morphed into a striking war again. In Villante's third fight, it was all wrestling.
He lost the first and second fights, won the third.
"In my last fight, it was a lot of nerves," Villante said. "I can't lose three straight fights. It was playing it safe. I never really saw me as someone like that."
Villante has the wrestling pedigree. While at MacArthur High School in 2003, he won a state title and was named an All-American. Villante wrestled for only one year in college, focusing instead on football.
But he also can punch people in the face and body with solid accuracy and strength.
"I like to slug it out, I'm good at it," said Villante, who has five knockouts. "I have to find a healthy mixture of the first one in Strikeforce and the last one."
Strikeforce put this fight together on the undercard of Luke Rockhold's first middleweight title defense against Keith Jardine with about three weeks' notice. Villante said he weighed about 234 pounds at the time. . Training with UFC middleweights Chris Weidman of Baldwin and Constantinos Philippou of Massapequa at Ray Longo MMA helped keep Villante in shape.
"I was a little worried about how heavy I was," Villante said. "Once you start getting over two to three months, you start wondering when you're gonna go again. You don't know where your weight should be."
All 205 pounds of Villante should be in the cage Saturday night.