Cape Town - Jared Vanderaa is unsure if he can out-grapple former EFC
heavyweight champion Ruan Potts, but believes he is the better striker.
American Vanderaa (7-3) will fight home star Potts (11-6) for the interim
heavyweight strap in the co-main event of EFC 76 at Time Square in Pretoria on
Vanderaa comes from a wrestling background and is a brown belt
in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, so he is no slouch on the mat.
But with Potts being a BJJ black belt and sporting six
submissions on his record, Vanderaa is wise to be wary.
“This is hard to say,”
Vanderaa told mmaengage.com when
asked to compare his ground game with Potts'.
“I never had use to my jits against anyone from South Africa, so
I can’t really give an educated answer. But what I can say is I am coached by
world-recognised jiu-jitsu artists. My coaches are Joe ‘Daddy’ Stevenson and
Tom Gallicchio. If you know these two gentlemen they are notorious for their
He adds: “I have to respect his ground game. It would not be
smart of me to think it would be a walk in a park. I have to respect him. And
naturally you always have to respect the power of a heavyweight's hands
‘The Mountain’ feels the odds are more clearly in his favour on
the feet, pointing to his second-round TKO of Elvis Moyo (8-6) at Sun City in
September to back his claim.
Vanderaa confidently traded blows with the decorated boxer in
the opening stanza before taking the Zimbabwean down and pounding him out.
“Now when it comes to striking I would have to say I have the
edge. If you look my last fight, Moyo was considered one of the best strikers
on the continent but my stand-up forced him to try to take me down ... you saw
how that ended.”
Vanderaa is determined to show he is a UFC-calibre fighter
against Potts, who is one of the few South Africans to have graced the octagon;
although he suffered three straight losses in the Las Vegas-based promotion
from 2014 to 2015.
“Well, of course the UFC would be the next step after holding
the title, but the goal is to succeed in the UFC and not just get the call-up.
I think I’m already at that level and will display it with Potts. And after
beating him hopefully the UFC will agree and give me the call, and add a young,
hungry, and very skilled and entertaining fighter to their roster.”
At 26, Vanderaa is 14 years younger than Potts. But with
‘Fangzz’ riding a three-fight winning streak, Vanderaa is not entertaining
thoughts his opponent is past his prime.
“In any other weight class I would agree. But with heavyweights,
that script is flipped. Often times their prime goes well into their mid/late
30s. So I’m not banking on age playing any role in this fight. He is still in
this game for a reason.”
Vanderaa trains under Corey Grant in Temecula, California at Team
Quest, a gym owned by retired MMA legend Dan Henderson (32-15). He says UFC
fan-favourite 'Smilin'' Sam Alvey (33-11) helped him prepare for this weekend’s
encounter among others.
“With this fight I got Jamal Pogues and 'Smilin'' Sam Alvey. Jamal
is a great boxer, high-level brown belt, just overall well-rounded. And then
there is Sam. What can I say about him that can’t be found online, though the
personality is better on a day-to-day level. Both are very high-level training
partners along with some surprises in there.”
Like Alvey, the playful Vanderaa is not the mean-mugging type,
as evidenced when quizzed on his predicted path to victory.
“If I were a betting man I would say a finish with a spinning,
flying triangle choke. Seems like the realistic way to win this fight. Better
get to that Keith Ho BetXChange before word gets out,” he says with a smile.
Vanderaa, who lost a questionable split decision to Andrew van
Zyl (19-4) on his EFC debut, enjoys coming to South Africa, and plans to put on
a show once again.
“Ruan, let’s go out there and
beat each other up, and show the world that we are true gladiators! To the
fans, South Africa has become a second home to me. This will be the third time
in 11 months I’ve been there to fight. I know I am not a native South African
but you all have made me feel welcomed and beloved. In turn I want to thank you
all and give you a champion that will continue to forge their way through the
highest ranks of MMA and beyond.”