Atzori's relief after submission win
AS LANCE "Lights Out" Ettia tapped the mat with his left hand, Hervey Bay grappler Greg Atzori released his grip on a lethal rear naked choke and looked up towards the bright lights of Melbourne Pavillion.
It lasts just seconds, but it is the most telling sign of Atzori's mindset as he reached his 30-fight goal at Hex Fight Series 12.
This was more than just a fight for Atzori: it was a test as to whether or not the 35-year-old could still remain a force in Australian mixed martial arts.
He withstood determined and undefeated 20-year-old Ettia's strikes. Ettia won all five of his previous fights, three via knockout.
While he stood toe-to-toe with his younger opponent in the third round, Atzori primarily stuck to the plan of keeping Ettia off his feet.
Not only did the Samarai Drive MMA owner force Ettia into the third round for the first time in the young fighter's career, he won.
"There's a lot of pressure that I put on myself. There is a lot out there about being too old to compete with the young guys," Atzori said.
"We know I'm almost 36. You have a lot of people try to put you out to pasture."
Atozri proved he still he had it. It's not just the skills, but it's the intelligence to change his preparation to prolong his career.
A new diet courtesy of The Front Room, consistent training, and limited head contact during preparation had Atozri at the top of his game both mentally and physically. He cut the least amount of weight in his career to date, but maintained his strength.
Persistent adaptation, which isn't new for the committed fighter, helped Atzori reach his milestone bout in style.
As "The Tarantula" nears the end of his active mixed martial arts career, he said he would consider moving down a weight class if his body sustains the change.
"I walked into this at 74kg without cutting, which is huge for me," Atzori said.
"I felt brilliant. If I can't do it from diet and training and it doesn't feel good, then I'll go back up."