This Saturday night (May 24, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweights Jamie Varner and James Krause will face off in the opening main card bout of UFC 173, airing live at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view (PPV) from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Varner has experienced some very disheartening setbacks in his last two bouts. He had Abel Trujillo on the ropes in a "Fight of the Night"-winning affair at UFC 169, but ultimately suffered a brutal come-from-behind knockout loss. Prior to that, Varner lost a split decision to Gleison Tibau at UFC 164.
With losses in three of his past four mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts, the former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) champion has his back up against the wall.
He'll face off against a man who's also looking to get back into the win column in Krause. After making his Octagon debut with a "Submission of the Night"-winning win over Sam Stout at UFC 161 in June 2013, Krause suffered his first loss in nine bouts when Bobby Green finished him with a body kick at UFC Fight Night 31: "Fight for Troops 3."
The dangerous mat wizard will be on the lookout for his biggest name win to date, but it won't come easy against a crafty veteran like Varner.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Varner vs. Krause:
Record: 21-9-1(2) overall, 3-3 UFC
Key Wins: Donald Cerrone (WEC 38), Edson Barboza (UFC 146), Melvin Guillard (UFC 155),
Key Losses: Abel Trujillo (UFC 169), Gleison Tibau (UFC 164), Joe Lauzon (UFC on FOX 4), Benson Henderson (WEC 46), Donald Cerrone (WEC 51)
Keys to Victory: Securing 11 submissions and seven knockouts in 21 total wins, Varner has all the skills to end his opponent's night in devastating fashion. He proved that during his run towards WEC gold, and reaffirmed it in his shocking upset over Barboza at UFC 146.
Problem is, his worst enemy has always been his own inconsistency. He lost three out of four to end his WEC stint, and now he's done the same in UFC. That record could have been much better if he didn't engage in a war with Lauzon and throw caution to the wind in his slugfest against Trujillo.
Both bouts were close, but they were winnable if he would have only fought a bit smarter.
Varner needs to use his solid boxing and wrestling to keep Krause guessing, all the while staying cautious of his dangerous submission game. Varner can score a ton of points with his takedowns and subsequent ground and pound, but he can't get careless like we've seen him do before.
Krause won't go down without a fight, but Varner has the tools to win.
He just has to stop standing in his own way.
Record: 20-5 overall, 1-1 UFC
Key Wins: Sam Stout (UFC 161), Michael Johnson (FM: Productions), Toby Amada (RFA 11)
Key Losses: Donald Cerrone (WEC 41) Ricardo Lamas (WEC 44)
Keys to Victory: Krause was on fire before Green put a screeching halt to his momentum. Despite his relative inexperience in the Octagon, Krause brings a wealth of relevant experience.
The Missouri native has been mixing up his ways to win recently, but grappling will always be his go-to skillset. That plays into his hands quite well here, as Varner has tapped out four times in nine total losses.
Krause has decent hands, but there's no need to get into one of the brawls Varner has become famous for. He might win, but he also might suffer a foolish and unnecessary defeat.
Varner may be looking to change levels with a few takedown attempts, and that's when Krause can use his mat skills to turn the tables with a submission. If and when the bout turns into a chess match, Krause's positional expertise will help Varner from controlling the action too much with his top game.
The chance for a huge victory is at hand for Krause, and after alternating a win and a loss during his first year in UFC, he could use it. Now is his chance to rise up or get passed by in UFC.
Bottom Line from Las Vegas: The bottom line for this fight is that both fighters are exciting finishers, possessing an alarming 36 stoppage wins between the two of them.
That means this one could end quickly.
Win or lose, Varner has been involved in some rousing contests since his return to Zuffa, and this one should be no different.
Varner is going to push the pace with reckless abandon and look to finish Krause from the opening bell. Like Varner, Krause has only been finished by strikes one time, so this could turn into a grinding affair.
That should favor Krause and his multitude of submission holds, but Varner is no stranger to a war.
He's also used to having pressure on his shoulders, and this fight will be no different. With a spotty track record as of late, Varner could be facing another step down to the minor leagues should he lose to Krause, making this fight a pivotal one.
Krause has less pressure, but he's fighting on the grand stage, a place he may not return to soon if he fails to capitalize on Saturday.
Overall, this fight promises to be an emotionally charged, unpredictable bout that should turn out to be an excellent start to a stacked card. Enjoy the fight.
Coming in off of recent losses, Jamie Varner and James Krause are in need of a statement victory at UFC 173. Which one will fight on in the talented UFC lightweight division?