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SportsMixed Martial Arts

LI's Bermudez in control, ready for next UFC test

Dennis Bermudez celebrates his tap-out win against Tom

Dennis Bermudez celebrates his tap-out win against Tom Hayden in their middleweight bout during UFC 150 in Denver. (Aug. 11, 2012) Credit: AP

Before the walk to the octagon, fighters work up a good sweat in the locker room. But doing that in the locker room after the fight ends?

"I was doing push-ups until I couldn't breathe," Dennis Bermudez said. "Therapy, you know?"

That was the night of Dec. 3, 2011, after West Islip's Bermudez lost to Diego Brandao in the featherweight final on Season 14 of "The Ultimate Fighter." Instead of sulking about not winning a guaranteed, six-figure UFC contract, Bermudez, who was submitted in the first round, did what he used to do in college after losing a wrestling match -- he vented.

Rather than punch a wall or a locker or kick a chair or something that could damage his work instruments -- his body -- Bermudez hit pads. He did sit-ups. Push-ups. Ran.

"In defeat, a lot of people sit in a corner and think about it," Bermudez said. "In defeat, I tried to get better right away."

That loss taught Bermudez about control, something he'll bring into the cage Saturday against Matt Grice at UFC 157 in Anaheim, Calif. Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche headline the card in what will be the first women's MMA bout in the UFC's 20-year history.

Fighting is about control -- controlling the cage, the pace and the opponent.

"My philosophy with my guys is 'I'm going to make this guy change his game to you,' " said Keith Trimble, Bermudez's striking coach at Bellmore Kickboxing Academy. "Make them adapt to what you're doing."

Bermudez (10-3, 2-1 UFC) also trains at Long Island MMA in Melville and has developed more of an all-around game in the 14-plus months since that loss to Brandao.

A freestyle All-American wrestler at Bloomsburg (Pa.) University, Bermudez, 26, has worked to improve his striking. At 145 pounds, he now can throw hands with speed and power. Trimble can see the difference between training him for this fight and when he first worked with Bermudez almost two years ago.

"Anybody can start to look better on the pads, but when you have a human being in front of you trying to punch and kick you, it's how he reacts," Trimble said. "He's trusting himself in his standup, and he believes in it."

New York Sports