Two of the most entertaining lightweights in the UFC will duke it out this Saturday night (August 4, 2012) as The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 5 veteran Joe Lauzon takes on former WEC 155 pound champion Jamie Varner on the UFC on FOX 4 main card in Los Angeles, California.
Joe Lauzon has experienced both the extreme highs and lows of mixed martial arts in his last two fights. He pulled off a huge upset when he stopped Melvin Guillard's streak at UFC 136 but then was brutally knocked out by Anthony Pettis earlier this year at UFC 144 in Japan. Now, he's trying to get back on track against a fighter who's proven he still can pack a punch.
Jamie Varner was considering retirement before a huge resurgent streak brought him back into the UFC fold. The former WEC lightweight champion made his triumphant return this past May by taking out then-undefeated prospect Edson Barboza via shocking first round knockout to make an emphatic statement to the lightweight division that he's far from done.
Will Lauzon be able to pick up the pieces and learn from Barboza's mistakes? Can Varner channel his UFC 146 self and score another shocking finish? What's the key to victory for both lightweights?
Let's find out:
Record: 21-7 overall, 7-4 in the UFC
How he got here: Joe Lauzon has faced some seriously stiff competition in his seven and a half year MMA career. The native Bostonian competed primarily on the east coast circuit early in his career, earning a victory over eventual WEC champ Mike Brown but coming up short to the likes of Jorge Masvidal, Ivan Menjivar and Raphael Assuncao.
Lauzon won three fights in one night on April 1, 2006 to punch his ticket to the UFC where he was expected to be thrown to the wolves against former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver. Instead, he clipped Pulver, knocking "Lil Evil" out in just 47 seconds in one of the biggest upsets of that year.
Despite his incredible showing, Lauzon would instead take a spot on season five of The Ultimate Fighter, where "J-Lau" was the favorite to win the show. Instead, he would be upset by eventual finalist Manny Gamburyan in the semifinals.
Since the show, it has been feast or famine for Lauzon. He's won seven fights in the promotion and has scored three losses against three of the division's best in Sam Stout, Kenny Florian and George Sotiropoulos. Lauzon has turned into a bonus hog in his recent fights, taking home "Fight of the Night" in all of his three Octagon losses and winning "Submission of the Night" in his four most recent victories.
He was coming off the biggest victory of his career, a huge upset against Melvin Guillard at UFC 136 in which he stunned "The Young Assassin" with a left hand and then choked him out in less than a minute and was hoping to enter title contention earlier this year against Anthony Pettis but found himself on the receiving end of a brutal head kick knockout from "Showtime."
Now, Lauzon is looking to pick up the pieces against another WEC standout.
How he gets it done: Lauzon really hunts for submissions in his fights. He's got a very aggressive guard with sweeps and attacks of the arm but he's also got some competent striking, something he showcased against both Jens Pulver in his UFC debut and in his most recent fights against Kurt Warburton and Melvin Guillard in which he stunned his opponents on the feet before pouncing with submissions on the ground.
Lauzon saw the downside of the growth in his striking in his last bout against Anthony Pettis, eating a huge head kick which ended his night early. If he's going to stand for any amount of time against Varner, he's got to try to land a sneaky jab or hook before closing the distance and working for takedowns.
"J-Lau" has a very nasty ground game and Varner has been controlled and submitted in the past, whether it was Ben Henderson insta-tapping him for the title or Shane Roller coming back from the brink at WEC 53 to tap him out. Varner can be submitted and if Lauzon can put him on his back, he's got a very good shot of pulling it off, at least in round one.
Record: 20-6-1 (2 no contests) overall, 2-1 in the UFC
Key Wins: Edson Barboza (UFC 146), Donald Cerrone (WEC 38)
How he got here: Jamie Varner had a history in both wrestling and boxing at a high level before making the transition to mixed martial arts in 2003. He competed very regularly in the local southwest circuit, most notably in the Rage in the Cage promotion before earning a trip to the UFC in 2006.
After a 1-1 stint, he switched over the the WEC where he instantly had major success and defeated champion Rob McCullough to capture the lightweight title. Varner defended the title multiple times but a horrific winless streak at the end of his stint with the WEC left him on the outside looking in when the promotion was folded in with the UFC.
While trying to work his way back, a loss to Dakota Cochrane on the local circuit left "C-4" contemplating retirement but he forged on. Varner found his touch with two straight first round stoppages which opened the door for him to come back to the UFC and he took full advantage of his opportunity, utterfly destroying Edson Barbooza on the UFC 146 main card via violent first round knockout.
Now, he's hoping he can use the short notice magic again as he fills in for the injured Terry Etim to take on Joe Lauzon this Saturday night.
How he gets it done: Varner's key to victory is very simple. He needs to utilize his crisp technical boxing and outwork Lauzon on the feet. Lauzon has some sneaky power as well, but he also has a tendency to stop attacking and just cover up when his opponent is turning up the pressure. If Varner can attack with a high volume offensive assault, he can force Lauzon to play defense for extended periods of this fight and at least win round if not overwhelm the defense and score a knockout.
Varner should use his wrestling in reverse to keep the fight standing and hopefully his conditioning is solid because if he can fight at a high pace, he can definitely wear Lauzon out.
Fight X-Factor: The X-Factor for this fight, like it is in most of Joe Lauzon's fights, is endurance. Lauzon is one of the few lightweights that actually can gas out in fights, but it's primarily because of his fighting style. He comes out of the gates at 100 miles per hour with a tremendous offensive blitz. If he can overwhelm his oppositions, he'll usually get a quick submission, but if not, like in cases against Kenny Florian and George Sotiropoulos, he'll instead find himself unable to provide an intelligent defense.
If Varner can fight smart and survive that first round onslaught, he can definitely use his technique to take over in the final two rounds.
Bottom Line: This fight is going to be awesome. It's almost a guarantee that someone is going to get finished whether it's Varner getting submitted in the first round or Lauzon getting knocked out in the final two rounds. Both men are equally dangerous and capable of ending a fight at any moment. Regardless of if this fight goes 10 minutes or 10 seconds, it is an excellent choice for the main card because it's going to be fantastic.
Who will come out on top at UFC on Fox 4? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!