Photo by Esther Lin/MMA Fighting.
Thom Jones, one of the finest writers of fiction in this or any other era, said it best in The Pugilist at Rest: "There's nothing more useless to the world than a washed-up prizefighter."
Jamie Varner can certainly relate, as the scrappy lightweight went from being WEC champ to contender, then hit a string of skid-row-style defeats to disappear into obscurity. But what a difference a fight makes. Varner's mojo is surging after his magnificent, one-round blowout of the highly touted Edson Barboza, whom many wags (with myself at the front of the bandwagon) had tapped as the potential future of the lightweight division.
With nothing to lose and everything to gain, Varner showed his vintage fighting spirit, the let's-duke-it-out-right-the-fuck-now approach that made him a fan favorite and a made-for-television attraction. And in blowing out the previously unbeaten Barboza, he resurrected a seemingly stalled career in a mere 203 seconds.
It takes longer to boil water.
Lauzon, meanwhile, has felt the dizzying swings of big wins and huge losses. A veteran lightweight, he's been unable to crack the top 10 of the game's most stacked division, but has been impressive against lesser competition. Lauzon's impressive first-round stoppage of the streaking Melvin Guillard last October suggested he might finally be ready to make the jump, but a vicious head kick knockout loss to the dangerous Anthony Pettis once again scuttled that effort.
With the deep 155-pound ranks, you practically need to be superhuman to move up the ladder and build a credible campaign for a title shot. Both are hoping to do just that when they square off against each other later tonight (Sat., Aug. 4, 2012) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
Styles make fights, and the one glaring element in the style contrast is Varner's ultimate go-to, which is solid wrestling. Lauzon's takedown defense is modest at best, and he's worked hard to sharpen his stand-up. However, Varner's boxing is technically better, he hits harder, and he will probably be comfortable enough to explore the bout on the feet before defaulting to takedown and top-control mode. It's nice to have options in a fight, and in this one, Varner definitely enjoys an advantage.
This is an interesting match-up for a couple reasons. First, Varner's seeming rebirth back into his old, fiery self, and Lauzon's improved standup. Jamie's stoppage of Barboza was no fluke, with some veteran getting lucky. He set up the attack with the old-style Varner approach that made him so much fun to watch earlier in his career. He'll mix in body and head punches and sucker you in to exchanges, then switch gears and plant you on the mat. He does have a tendency to try too hard at times to make fights exciting when he could probably ride out a safe win to a decision via takedowns and killing the clock, but that's precisely why he was slotted as a late substitute for Barboza (who was originally slated to face Evan Dunham) and jumped in on three weeks' notice.
It's hard to see how Lauzon wins this one. Varner has an excellent chin and almost always fires back when hurt, and he's got solid submission defense. The styles suggest that Varner can pick his spots, and he should have the firepower on the feet to at least keep it even, perhaps landing some big shots en route.
On the ground, I don't see Varner having too many problems, either; Lauzon's mat game is good but he'll be weathering too many things at once. Varner will have some exciting moments in wild exchanges but his persistence, firepower and takedowns will carry the day to a convincing unanimous decision win.
Jamie Varner by unanimous decision.
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Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst or email@example.com.