Two solid UFC middleweights will wage war this Saturday night when top French Tristar prospect Francis Carmont takes on scrappy American Tom Lawlor on the UFC 154 main card in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Francis Carmont has improved by leaps and bounds ever since teaming up with Tristar Gym. He has not tasted defeat in over four and a half years and has quickly jumped out to a 3-0 UFC record since making his debut just over a year ago. He'll be looking to make it 4-0 this weekend.
Tom Lawlor is more renowned for his flashy entrances and weigh-in appearances than his fighting ability, but he reminded everyone just how dangerous he's capable of being in his last bout, a first round knockout of Jason MacDonald earlier this summer. He'll be trying to derail the Carmont train on Saturday night.
Record: 19-7 overall, 3-0 in the UFC
How he got here: Francis Carmont was toiling away on the local circuit from 2006 to 2009 and at one point went through a 15 fight stretch in which he only won just over half his fights. He put it all together starting in 2008, but he didn't officially start thrashing people until 2009.
He also began working with Firas Zahabi out of Tristar Gym and began to showcase considerable improvement. This opened up the doors for a run in the UFC and when the promotion came calling,
At UFC on Fuel TV 2 in Sweden against Magnus Sedanblod, Carmont completely took over, smashing the fellow European after some entertaining scrambles. He followed that victory up by outwrestling Karlos Vemola and even tapping the powerful grappler out after a slick transition.
With the big win, Carmont is now being featured on his first UFC pay-per-view main card.
How he gets it done: Carmont can hurt his opponents in multiple situations but the best looking scenario for him involves either the clinch or if he stay in the pocket and lay into Lawlor with punches and kicks..
It took a while, but Carmont finally put it all together and really started beating everyone in all facets of the game, both with his stand-up and especially now on the ground.
Look for "Limitless" to try to wear Lawlor down in the clinch or with takedowns and really work either his dirty boxing or his ground and pound. If they're standing in the pocket, Carmont will likely try to lay into Lawlor with kicks, but his bread and butter is actually his ever-improving ground game. Lawlor has been susceptible to powerful ground fighters in his career and Carmont can definitely exploit this.
Record: 8-4 (1 no contest), 4-3 in the UFC
How he got here: Tom Lawlor started his professional MMA career in 2007 but he didn't truly make his mark until 2008 when he was a cast member of The Ultimate Fighter season eight. He would lose on the show to eventual winner Ryan Bader, but a pair of impressive victories to start out his UFC career over Kyle Kingsbury and especially his 55 second submission of C.B. Dollaway really put him on the map.
He put on an incredibly entertaining fight against Aaron Simpson, but would drop a controversial decision to the former All-American wrestler. He followed that up by dominating Canadian veteran Joe Doerkson early before fading and getting submitted in the second round.
Lawlor played it safe in his next fight, grinding out a decision against former title challenger Patrick Cote, but then missed over a year with injury and was rewarded with a fight against top prospect Chris Weidman, where he was choked unconscious in the first round.
After returning from another long layoff, he cruised to a first round knockout against Jason MacDonald in his last bout and he'll be looking to play spoiler this weekend against the favored Carmont.
How he gets it done: Lawlor needs to put his fists on Carmont's chin early and often. He's likely going to be behind in the skills department in terms of technique on the feet, in the clinch and even on the ground. What he does pack is a very heavy punch.
If Lawlor can catch Carmont off guard, he's got a shot, but he can't blow it. He's got to get in the pocket and just blitz the French-Canadian with punches until the referee yanks him off. If he plays it safe, he'll likely be worn down with clinch and takedown-based offense, or even potentially picked apart on the feet.
Time is not on Lawlor's side either as he's been prone to slowing down after the first round, especially if he's been close to a knockout victory. He's got to act fast if he wants to pull this off.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight has to be time. Tom Lawlor is extremely dangerous in the opening round, with multiple first round victories on his record as well as nearly stopping both Joe Doerkson and Aaron Simpson in the first frame.
If this fight goes past the first five minutes, Carmont's odds of winning this fight go through the roof. Carmont has a solid gas tank and was able to lay into Chris Camozzi with heavy strikes for three straight rounds in his UFC debut. If he can wear Lawlor down, he'll be in really good shape.
Bottom Line: If this fight stays on the feet, it should be really fun as both men have a chance to stop the bout with their striking. A more unpredictable fight is always more entertaining. If Carmont can work his ground game, it'll still be entertaining as he's got some unique moves to pull off like his crazy crucifix against Karlos Vemola, but it'll likely be much more one-sided if he's in control on the canvas. Regardless, Carmont is a very exciting fighter to keep an eye on in the UFC middleweight division and this should be a solid test for him.
Who will come out on top at UFC 154? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!