Emanuel Newton-BellatorWhile incremental increases in a fighter’s game is to be expected over time, for Bellator light-heavyweight tournament participant Emanuel Newton, his game has undergone a huge leap forward just in the past couple months.

“I think I really discovered who I am and what’s my style and what works for me and makes me hard to deal with when I’m inside the cage for sure over the past couple of years, but the past two months I really think my game has taken off, especially on the feet,” said Newton.

“Working at the Wild Card gym, my stand-up has completely changed, especially in the realm of my hands and my movement.”

Newton’s improved striking helped pay a part in his two recent tournament wins, and more so in his KO victory over Mo Lawal in February.

“Before the Mo fight I wasn’t with my trainers for very long, so that’s why you saw a night and day difference in my striking in my fight against Mo as opposed to my fight against Atanas (Djambazov),” said Newton. “Everything is coming together and I want to keep it going.”

After falling short in last year’s light-heavyweight tournament in a controversial split-decision loss to Attila Vegh in the semi-finals, Newton now has a chance to redeem himself this Thursday night in Tampa, Florida, against Mikhail Zayats for this season’s 205-pound tournament title.

“He’s a very tough fighter who is very awkward striking and has good on the ground, especially off his back, but I fill I’m better in all areas of the game,” said Newton of Zayats.

“Not to take anything away from him, he’s a very tough fighter and it’s going to be a very good fight, but with my wrestling and my newfound striking skills it’s going to be hard for him to deal with me.”

While Newton feels Bellator has always taken good care of him, he told MMAWeekly.com that he knows he wasn’t the tournament favorite, but because of the format, anyone can make their way to glory.

“I know that they were expecting Mo and Babalu (Sobral) to be the two top dogs, but the tournament gives everybody the opportunity to make their own destiny,” said Newton. “It’s not about who talks the most on Twitter or has the most Twitter followers, it’s about who truly deserves the opportunity to be in there.

“That’s one thing I really enjoy about Bellator, anybody can showcase their skills and earn their opportunity to get the belt.”

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