Two members of this past season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), Justin Lawrence and John Cofer, opened up The Ultimate Fighter Live Finale main card last night (June 1, 2012) on FX.
Lawrence was heavily favored as the fighter to beat on the show, being Dominick Cruz's first pick and dominating his first two fights before coming up short.
His opponent, John Cofer, participated in one of the season's most entertaining fights, but he was not expected to give Lawrence much of a fight, at least on paper. Instead, Cofer landed a pretty sizable amount of significant strikes, helping both men garner "Fight of the Night" honors, although it didn't stop him from losing in highlight reel fashion.
So what helped Lawrence remain focused and score a tremendous knockout? And what happens next for both men?
Follow me after the jump for our Justin Lawrence vs. John Cofer The Ultimate Fighter Live Finale post-fight review and analysis.
Things didn't start well for Lawrence, as his first strike, a sloppy side kick, was intercepted by Cofer and used to take the ex-kickboxer to the ground. Lawrence defended himself well enough to get back to his feet, but he wasn't entirely safe there either, eating a pretty big left hand from his southpaw opponent as soon as he got to his feet.
Lawrence was having trouble finding his proper range, but he finally properly gauged the distance of what would become his "go-to" stand-up attack for the remainder of the fight, his lead left hook, with just over one minute left in the first round.
For the second round, Cofer's conditioning began to be a very important factor as his pace slowed and Lawrence took the initiative, aggressively pushing forward and continuing to throw that lead left hook. Cofer didn't gain an advantage until the final minute of the round where again, a Lawrence kick was capitalized on as Lawrence threw an ill-advised spinning back kick. Cofer closed the distance mid-kick and grabbed a reverse body lock, using it to throw the kickboxer to the ground.
Unfortunately for Cofer, he was a bit too aggressive after taking Lawrence's back and allowed the hyped-prospect to sneak out the back door during a scramble and that was the end of his threat.
The third round didn't last long, and it was because of one of the most vicious head kick knockouts of 2012. Lawrence finally did something he should have been doing all fight, which was mix his kicks into his combinations. After distracting Cofer with a 1-2 punching combo, he finished it off with a beautiful head kick which connected as Cofer dropped his hands and circled directly into the power. There was no need for a follow-up attack as Cofer was done.
For John Cofer, he did a good job of closing the distance whenever Lawrence got fancy in the fight, taking him down and making him think twice about being flashy, but it wasn't even close to enough. He made some mistakes on the ground which allowed Lawrence to get to his feet and he broke the number one rule in MMA, protect yourself at all times. You can't drop your hands while still in striking range, or you're going to risk getting your block knocked off.
UFC doesn't often keep people around who lose their bout on the TUF finale, but Cofer did garner a "Fight of the Night" bonus and he hung around a lot longer than many expected. If he stays, potential opponents could include James Vick or Andy Ogle, who were both injured and couldn't compete on the finale. Other options include a bout against finalist Al Iaquinta.
For Justin Lawrence, that was a serviceable performance, but he wasn't exactly lighting the world on fire before his tremendous knockout in the third round. He made some mistakes with his spacing, throwing kicks when he shouldn't have and his defense wasn't that great either, as he was repeatedly caught with some of Cofer's punches, something a fighter with "150 amateur kickboxing fights" shouldn't be doing at all. That said, his finish is exactly whey he was the favorite of the season and it was exactly why he was selected to fight on the televised main card.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Were you floored by Lawrence's head kick knockout? Or did you expecting something along those lines to happen? With just four professional wins, do you feel "The American Kid" is ready to start fighting battle-tested UFC veterans?