WEIRTON - After more than 20 fights, including seven as a pro, and four straight wins, it may finally be Hawk Time.
Justin Steave (5-2) was impressive in his most recent win, as he earned a clear-cut unanimous decision over Mike Diggs (7-5) at the latest Pinnacle Fighting Championships event. The win was the fourth in a row for the 26-year-old, and may have been one of his most impressive to date.
After dealing with nagging injuries since the beginning of the year, Steave returned to the cage and immediately showed his creative striking and all-around game. Steave dominated the fight on the feet in the first round, but a wild shot opened up a cut on his right eyelid in the second round that affected his vision and ability to strike. But Steave remained vigilant, eventually able to earn a takedown in the third round to seal a 29-28 victory on all three judges' scorecards.
"We're both counter punchers, but basically I just wanted to be the quicker fighter, set the pace, be first," Steave said in an interview with Ohio MMA News following the win. "I wanted to test his cardio out and see his skill level how he picks everything up."
The cut definitely affected Steave's vision, but it also slowed down his striking attack. But being the veteran of the sport that he is, Steave adjusted and found a different way to control the fight.
"I had to move around, because I couldn't see," Steave said. "I wasn't really sure if it was a glove that cut me, but it came from a hook. I couldn't see, my eyesight was a little blurry, so I had to keep moving around. I tried to play a little poker game to make sure he didn't know I was hurt."
Going into the third round, Steave channeled his inner corner man and gave himself a pep talk that allowed him to come home with the victory.
"You've got to get out there and win this," Steave said when asked what his own corner advice would be. "It's 1-1, you never know how the judges are going to score it, and you've been on the bad side of decisions before. There's no excuses, you just have to make it happen. You have five minutes - you stay on the phone longer than that sometimes on a conversation. You've got the cardio, so put everything on the line right now."
A late takedown sealed the victory for Steave, yet another impressive win in a career that has had an upward trajectory over the past year.
But there was a time last year when Steave felt that he wasn't ready or didn't deserve to be lumped in with top prospects, and he turned down a contract offered to him to fight in Bellator last fall. Getting so close to his goal and turning it down clearly lit a fire under Steave, who has since earned three stoppage victories to go along with the win over Diggs.
"I feel like I'm right there. I feel like I'm right in line," Steave said. "There are guys who get into the UFC at 5-2, and I feel like I can hang with whoever. Mike Diggs just fought a guy from the UFC in Waylon Lowe, and I feel there is no one in here who is going to stand with me. My wrestling is there, (my jiu-jitsu) is getting there, and I'm knocking on somebody's door, that's all I know."
Steave is not the only one knocking on somebody's door, as his teammates Mark Cherico and Khama Worthy also earned impressive victories at Pittsburgh Challenge Series 3, and he trains with a deep group of fighters at Fight Club Pittsburgh in the Steel City. Steave is now ready for a step up in competition, and he'd like to prove that he's ready for the next level by facing fighters who have already been there.
"For some reason I like Cameron Dollar," said Steave, who is sponsored by PatinoDiet.com, Intimidation Clothing, Swollen Knuckles, Smokey's Deer Lure, Craig's Lawn Service, Alternate Esco, Diamond Esco, Combat Sports Agency, and Fight Club Pittsburgh. "I want to take on a UFC veteran, or somebody that is UFC-caliber. I'm ready to take on that competition right now and I want to make it happen."