Lightweights Anthony Pettis (L) and Joe Lauzon (R) square off at the UFC 144 weigh-in on Sat., Feb. 25, 2012, at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Photo by Esther Lin via SBnation.com.
In the stacked Lightweight division, mixed martial arts (MMA) fans get more exciting matches than any other weight class. And the showdown better Anthony Pettis and Joe Lauzon later this evening (Feb. 25, 2012) on the UFC 144 pay-per-view (PPV) main card from the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, should meet high those expectations, accordingly.
With a huge win over then-streaking Melvin Guillard last October, Lauzon put a real feather in his cap with the most impressive win of his career. Once relegated as a submission specialist with a ground-based game, his willingness to find an opening on the feet against the dangerous "Young Assassin" showed real confidence in his stand up.
Facing Pettis, Lauzon may well have to rely on it because the former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) champion has worked readily on improving his wrestling, and his takedown defense. Mat-smashed in a frustrating decision loss to Clay Guida last summer in a bout that derailed his hopes for a title shot, Pettis rebounded with a workmanlike decision over durable Jeremy Stephens, showing maturity and patience.
Both bring some name value and momentum into this bout as somewhat relevant, if not truly elite, 155-pound contenders. An impressive win could vault either of them back into the top 10. Style-wise, however, this is probably a match up that favors Pettis. Lauzon isn’t a power wrestler and isn’t as dynamic on the feet, but he has a knack for making things happen and pouncing on opportunities.
Lauzon has also come up short in previously similar fights – showdowns against better levels of competition in Kenny Florian, Sam Stout and George Sotiropoulos – and needs a win to show he can compete at this level.
Follow me after the jump for a complete breakdown of the UFC 144 fight between Anthony Pettis vs. Joe Lauzon:
Pettis’ patience against Stephens was a definite plus, as he didn’t try to do too much, instead working small but definitive advantages to carve out a close decision win. The good thing about Pettis is his upside when it comes to grappling. Training with Olympian Ben Askren has worked wonders for his wrestling, but he’s still got a decent amount of room to improve. His stand up is outright dazzling at times, delivering unorthodox attacks with smooth mechanics to slam-bang effect. He’s also shown the requisite gameness any lightweight will need, as in the decision loss to Guida, he never stopped battling for subs and largely shut down Guida’s ground and pound in what was a stalemate at times on the ground.
Lauzon is probably Pettis’ equal when it comes to Brazilian jiu-jitsu and submissions, but he may not have the physical strength to control and set up Pettis for these attempts. Lauzon’s got to make something big happen early and disrupt Pettis' standing rhythm, otherwise he’ll get kicked and combo-filleted in what will be an increasingly one-sided fight.
Another factor is Pettis’ takedowns, which he used to smart effect to pull out close rounds with late ones in rounds over Stephens. That’s another go-to tactic for Pettis and Lauzon will have to deny him, a tall order for a fighter whose takedown defense is average, at best.
This is a match designed to give Pettis some experience, and a win. Styles make fights, and while Lauzon looked great dismantling the talented, but erratic, Guillard, Pettis is not Melvin, whose incredible physical gifts are constantly undercut by the mental gaffes he makes that lose otherwise winnable fights.
Lauzon is a tough customer, and he’ll be forced to engage Pettis on the feet, where "Showtime" will pile up points with solid strikes and increasingly accurate kicks. He’ll also score takedowns as needed and bloody up Lauzon with ground and pound and a punishing pace. This one will be entertaining as long at goes, with Pettis proving too much in a vicious scrap, emerging with a third-round technical knockout from strikes on the ground.
Pettis via technical knockout
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Jason Probst can be reached at www.twitter.com/jasonprobst and at firstname.lastname@example.org.