Despite getting bounced from The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 6 by Tommy Speer, Australian grappling phenom George Sotiropoulos was still considered one of the top up-and-coming prospects in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight division.
He cemented that status by going on a six-fight tear, beginning with his call back for TUF 6 live finale in Dec. 2007.
In addition to submission wins over George Roop (UFC 101) and Jason Dent (UFC 106), "G-Sots" notched unanimous decision victories over fellow grapplers and longtime veterans Joe Stevenson (UFC 110) and Kurt Pellegrino (UFC 116).
Now it was time to separate the men from the boys.
Standing in his way was another shining star of the 155-pound division, TUF 5 standout Joe Lauzon, who was coming off a career performance in his hometown of Boston, beating the brakes off fellow reality show hopeful Gabe Reudiger in one of the most lopsided fights in recent memory.
Who was a contender and who was a pretender?
The stage was set at the UFC 123: "Rampage vs. Machida" pay-per-view (PPV) event, which emanated from the Palace of Auburn Hills in Michigan on Nov. 20, 2010. Kicking off the main card telecast was George Sotiropoulos vs. Joe Lauzon.
Here's how it all went down.
Touch of gloves to get the action started and both fighters meet in the center of the cage to unload punches. Lauzon connects on two right hands and Sotiropoulos instinctively ties him up. "J-Lau" shrugs off the clinch and once again finds a home for the right hand.
"Joe Lauzon appears to be a bit quicker out of the gate," observes UFC color commentator Joe Rogan.
Sotiropoulos comes under fire and this time looks for the takedown, grabbing a single but can't see it through as Lauzon hops to safety. The Bostonian is having free reign in the stand-up and "G-Sots" can't find a home for his strikes, but is able to drive his foe to the cage.
It gets him nothing but a face full of elbows.
They reset and paw at each other but the fight goes to the ground when Lauzon rushes in with punches and gets upended by his opponent's guard. A scramble ensues and Sotiropoulos gets back to his feet, quickly grabbing a single and taking it back to the floor.
Lauzon turtles as the Aussie takes his back.
30 seconds left in the round and Sotiropoulos works his way into side control and then mount, unloading punches but also leaving the slightest of openings in his armbar attempt. Lauzon capitalizes and rolls through, regaining top control and dropping bombs at the buzzer.
One round in and we have ourselves a fight.
The second stanza begins and Sotiropoulos comes out firing. "Joe Lauzon has slowed down considerably," notes Rogan. "G-Sots" drives forward, looking for a single but after mugging him on the fence, is forced to abandon the position and reset.
Lauzon, mouth agape, gets tangled in the Thai Plum and kneed repeatedly.
Upon escape, Sotiropoulos once again tries for the takedown. Lauzon fends him off -- but only temporarily -- before collapsing to the canvas in what appears to be exhaustion. The Aussie spins into north/south and "Joe Lauzon is in trouble here," according to Rogan.
Sotiropoulos pins one arm with his knee and locks up another but loses position. When Lauzon exits stage left, "G-Sots" is there to meet him and whips himself back into side control, spinning effortlessly across his opponent's body and cranking a painful Kimura.
Lauzon surrenders at 2:43 of round two.
After winning seven straight, Sotiropoulos dropped back-to-back fights for the first time in his eight-year career. He'll have a chance to redeem himself in the same place he started: A TUF finale, this time opposite fellow "Sm-Ashes" coach Ross Pearson.
In front of a hometown crowd.
Find out if "G-Sots" makes (or becomes) history against the "Real Deal" this Friday night (Dec. 14) in the main event of UFC on FX 6 from the Gold Coast Convention Center in Queensland, Australia. To see Pearson's mark in the annals of Octagon history click here.