He wrestled the talented striker to the ground repeatedly to earn a split decision over him in their lightweight matchup at UFC 141.
“The game plan was to go where I’m strong and he’s weak, which was his wrestling,” Castillo told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “I tried to close the gap and look to shoot a takedown. Surprisingly, his takedown defense was a lot better than I expected and his ground game was a lot better than I expected. I could tell he’d been working those aspects coming into the fight.”
When Castillo failed to finish some takedown attempts, he kept trying. The approach won him the fight, but some fans in attendance didn’t appreciate his conservative strategy and they responded with boos. Castillo said the boos were tough to hear, but he’s still happy with the win.
“If you can’t get off the bottom and if you can’t [stop] takedowns, then that’s your problem -- not mine,” he said. “I’m just better than you at wrestling. I win the fight. If you can knock me out and I can’t punch you once, you’re the striker. That’s your part of the game. Hat’s off to you. My part of the game is wrestling. My wrestling’s a lot better than a lot of lightweights in the division, so of course I’m going to use that.”
Castillo also pointed out that he had taken the fight on short notice. If he’d had more time to prepare, he said he might have used a different strategy. Even in victory, though, he did acknowledge that he could have been more aggressive with his striking on the ground. That doesn’t mean he thinks he should have stood up with Njokuani, however, just to entertain the fans.
“There’s no reason for me to stand with a guy whose striking is obviously way better than mine,” Castillo said. “I’m not going to sit here and pretend my standup is as good as his, but my wrestling is better than his and that’s what I used. I used what I had going into this fight. Had I had more time to prepare, maybe I would have came more prepared to strike, but I took the fight on three weeks’ notice and I basically just went in there with the skill set that I had and looked to win the fight.”
In the end, that’s what Castillo did too: win. He attributes the victory to sticking to his strategy.
“I just stuck with the game plan, and that’s one of the main things I’ve learned so far in my career is being patient and sticking to those game plans,” he said. “A lot of the fights I’ve lost in the past, I went away from the game plan. The game was just to use my jab and look for the takedown, and that’s what I did.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 1:18:00).