Zak Cummings (21-5) was due to face Thiago Alves at UFC Fight Night: Stephens Vs. Choi in January. The welterweight TUF alum was thrilled to be fighting in his backyard of St. Louis, MO and to have a crack at a well-known fighter on the downswing. However, fate had other ideas.
Days before the event, Cummings was taken out of action… by a bath tub.
“Man, it was a pretty sh**ty situation,” said Cummings to Bloody Elbow as he recounted the bizarre incident. Cummings explained that leading up to his final few weight cutting sessions, everything in camp was going great. So much so that he and his team were laughed about “how smooth everything was going.”
“It was all too perfect,” said Cummings. So with just seven pounds left to cut in a couple of days, Cummings took a hot bath at the official fighter hotel in St. Louis. He estimated he shredded five pounds off his frame during that session. When he got out of the tub, he sat on the side while his team helped him dry off his chest with a towel.
Cummings team then tried drying off his legs. But when he lifted his legs to facilitate this, everything went wrong.
“I kind of slipped backwards a little bit on the tub and my friend says I fell back,” sort of remembered Cummings. “But I just didn’t fall back, there was a metal handrail right behind me and I hit my head on it. I don’t know if it flashed me or what, but the next thing I know. I’m laying folded up in the tub with blood everywhere and everyone looking over me and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I think something bad might have happened.’”
Cummings said he was disorientated and didn’t quite know what had happened until one of his friends took a picture of the back of his head — which was “split wide open” — and showed it to him.
UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard was then called to the room. After a quick inspection he broke it to Cummings that he couldn’t fight Alves.
“It was just devastating,” said Cummings. The 33-year-old explained that the incident wasn’t painful just because he believed he had a great chance of beating Alves, which he thought would propel his name into the welterweight rankings, but also because of what he had sacrificed to prepare for that moment.
“I had a newborn at home and I was away at camp. I missed like most of the first three months of her life and it was hard for me. It was terrible to leave the family behind and get ready for that fight, but I had a feeling that it would pay off and kind of pay off big. But I felt like that part was robbed from me and I missed all that time at home for no reason.”
Despite how ‘devastating’ being taken out of the Alves fight was for Cummings, he’s laboured to find positive takeaways from the situation.
“It could have been way worse,” he said. “To hit my head that hard, and where I hit it, it could have killed me. So I had to find the positives and just get back into fight camp.”
After the incident, Cummings said he was relentless in begging the UFC for another fight. It didn’t take too long before he got his wish.
At UFC Fight Night: Maia vs. Usman this Saturday night, Cummings will face Michel Prazeres, a fighter who is no stranger to fight week mishaps. The Brazilian has missed weight in three of his last four fights, all of which were at lightweight. He’s also won each of those (and is on a six fight win streak).
Most recently Prazeres beat Desmond Green at UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Anders. For that bout he came in at 161 lbs. However, many other fighters missed weight on the card and have cited a lack of hot water at the fighters’ hotel in Belem, Brazil as the reason why.
Against Cummings, Prazeres will fight at welterweight for the first time since he lost to Paulo Thiago in 2013. Competing at 170 lbs has been forced on Prazeres by the UFC and the fighter has since said he will return to 155 lbs immediately after this fight.
Cummings has fought as heavy as 205 lbs (he fought the late Ryan Jimmo for the MFC light heavyweight title in 2011). When they square-up, Cummings will have half-a-foot of height advantage and an eight-inch reach advantage over Prazeres.
Given Prazeres’ past infractions, Cummings jokingly wondered if this match-up was some kind of punitive measure against him by the UFC.
“I’ve had my mishaps, too. I’ve missed weight once. I hit my head,” said Cummings. “But the funny thing is, I kind of thought about that, too. Are they just so mad at him that they were like, ‘Hey not only are we going to make him fight at welterweight, we’re going to make him fight one of the biggest welterweights out there’?”
Despite the size difference, Cummings call Prazeres a “dangerous” and well-rounded fighter. Even so, Cummings is unsure how Prazeres’ will be able to implement his usual style against him.
“I feel like he’s normally the stronger bully-type fighter at 155. He’s always had to deal with the reach disadvantage, but I feel like he’s always been the more powerful guy and the bully with his jiu jitsu style and his striking. I just don’t see him being able to present that threat at all with me. Maybe he can with some smaller welterweights, but it’s a big jump from lightweight to welterweight.”
Cummings is impressed by Prazeres’ BJJ, especially after seeing pictures online that revealed four stripes on the Brazilian’s black belt. However, in their fight, Cummings’ can’t see that being enough to tip the scales in ‘Trator’s favour.
“When I watch his style, it’s a very power jiu jitsu style,” said Cummings; a fellow BJJ black belt. “I don’t think he’s really slick. Especially in an MMA fight, I just don’t see his game working against my body-type. And it’s going to be hard for him to get to me and close that distance to get the fight to the ground, but if it does — I feel very very confident in my jiu jitsu and my MMA jiu jitsu. I can definitely hang with or finish the guy.”
You can see whether Cummings is right in his estimation or if Prazeres can overcome his size disadvantage this Saturday night. Michel Prazeres vs. Zak Cummings headlines the prelim card of UFC Fight Night: Maia vs. Usman. That portion of the event airs at 8PM ET on FS2, live from Santiago, Chile.