Last night (Aug. 17, 2013), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweights Joe Lauzon and Michael Johnson went to war in the opening bout of the main card at UFC Fight Night 26, which took place from TD Bank Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.
Lauzon came in off a to Jim Miller in a "Fight of the Night"-winning performance at last December's UFC 155, while Johnson had dropped his previous two fights against Reza Medadi and Myles Jury. With his relevancy -- and perhaps even his job on the line -- Johnson rose to the occasion to take home a much-needed victory over the supremely tough Lauzon.
Let's take a look at how Johnson got the job done in the biggest test of his UFC career.
The fight started off slow, with a bit of a feeling-out process. Johnson showed improved kickboxing with an early leg kick to jab combination, and then transitioned to throwing body shots. From there, he truly opened up his striking arsenal on the notoriously tough-to-finish Lauzon. Landing a great straight left and some uppercuts, Johnson floored Lauzon and looked to finish with a flurry.
Although he was noticeably hurt, Lauzon refused to be finished by the barrage from Johnson.
The second round saw Lauzon look to clinch against the cage in an attempt to control his opponent's brutal onslaught. Johnson appeared to slow down from the frenetic pace that he established in the first round. He went back to the uppercuts that were so effective in the opening round, but they seemed to have a lot less on them in the second frame. As Lauzon gained a small advantage by pressing his opponent against the cage, Johnson shot for and secured a double leg takedown that may have swayed the round in his favor.
As the last round kicked off, both combatants showed visible fatigue. However, just as it appeared that the bout had slowed down to a crawl, Johnson unleashed some more of his crisp boxing to badly swell up Lauzon's face. Lauzon couldn't get any measured amount of offense mounted throughout the final round, leaving him with an improbable finish as his only out. That finish never came, as Johnson closed the door on a much-needed victory by taking a tired Lauzon down again at the end of the third round.
Johnson looked sharp and effective, mixing up his strikes with knees, kicks, and varied punches to confuse his opponent by always being at least one step ahead of the game.
Johnson's speed was truly the tale of this bout, and it proved true for the Blackzilian, who may have been handed his walking papers had he lost last night. It appears that Johnson's training with famed kickboxer Tyrone Spong at Florida's Jaco Hybrid Training Center is beginning to pay big dividends. He needed a name win to get back on track in the ultra-competitive UFC 155-pouns division and he got just that tonight.
Lauzon, on the other hand, finds himself in a sort of no-man's land after losing two straight. There's no doubt that he remains one of the most exciting fighters on the UFC roster, but the unfortunate fact is that he was exposed in front of his hometown crowd. It's tough to foresee Lauzon holding his own against a fast striker with the discipline to conserve his energy as Johnson did tonight.
He'll still put on great fights for the fans, but he'll most likely never find his way into the top of the rankings anytime soon.
Johnson still has a lot to prove, and he'll most likely face off another big name opponent his next time in the Octagon. Perhaps a bout against Jim Miller would be an interesting match up for the rapidly improving striker.