Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight veterans Joe Lauzon and Takanori Gomi will battle this Saturday (July 25, 2015) at UFC on FOX 16 inside United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
It's been a rough couple of years for Lauzon. He's had some decent -- and certainly exciting -- wins, but he's also spent quite a bit of time getting his head knocked around by some of the 155-pound division's sharpest up-and-comers.
Meanwhile, Gomi began a bit of a career resurrection in 2012, basically winning four straight fights if the Diego Sanchez decision is rightfully ignored. Then, Gomi ran into one of those aforementioned young guns, and he fell to the canvas rather quickly.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both fighters:
Key Wins: Michael Chiesa (UFC Fight Night 50), Jamie Varner (UFC on FOX 4), Melvin Guillard (UFC 136)
Key Losses: Michael Johnson (UFC Fight Night 26), Al Iaquinta (UFC 183), Anthony Pettis (UFC 144)
Keys to Victory: Lauzon is one of the most dynamic submission fighters to ever compete inside the Octagon. He's locked up 18 submission wins and also packs some decent punching power.
In this bout, Lauzon needs to force the issue. If he allows Gomi to settle into his range and dictate the pace, "J-Lau" will have a very difficult time landing takedowns and will be forced to strike with the Japanese veteran.
Considering "Fireball Kid's" ferocious punching power, that's a risky proposition.
Instead, Lauzon needs to push forward from the start of the bout. If Lauzon is keeping Gomi on his back foot with punches and takedown attempts, Gomi will use plenty of energy and generally be much less effective. Plus, a successful early takedown would likely result in a quick submission win.
The other main benefit of a pressure attack is that Gomi will slow down. Gomi is an older fighter -- both in age and career -- and he most certainly does slow down as the fight wears on. Lauzon can accelerate that process by pushing a high pace and keeping the pressure on his opponent.
Record: 35-10 (1)
Key Wins: Issac Vallie-Flagg (UFC 172), Tyson Griffin (UFC on Versus 2), Jens Pulver (Pride Shockwave 2004)
Key Losses: Clay Guida (UFC 125), Myles Jury (UFC Fight Night 52)
Keys to Victory: Gomi is one of the most successful lightweights of all time, known for his dangerous boxing and sturdy takedown defense. While he's definitely declined since his reign in Pride FC, Gomi is still an experienced and skilled athlete.
Outside of his loss to Jury, Gomi's recent style change up has been quite effective. Rather than storming toward his opponent with big punches, Gomi has been working the outside game with an emphasis on movement and quick strikes.
Above all else, it's done wonders for keeping him off his back.
Simply put, this game plan should really help Gomi capitalize on Lauzon's weaknesses. The Boston-native is not the most powerful takedown artist -- meaning that it will be very difficult for him to drag Gomi down if he fights smart -- and has some pretty weak striking defense.
Unfortunately for "J-Lau," a common defensive reaction for him is to simply cover up with both hands and try to block shots, which doesn't work particularly well in mixed martial arts (MMA). Gomi can take advantage of this when he does step in to punch, both with body shots and a well-placed haymaker.
Bottom Line: While the current Top 10 won't exactly be holding their collective breath, this will most likely be an entertaining scrap.
Lauzon has slowly been sliding into the role of gatekeeper. He doesn't have any losses to bad fighters, but the amount of ugly losses against good ones is growing. If Lauzon slips up against Gomi -- who is far from a young prospect -- it may push him down even lower than that rank.
On the other hand, a victory maintains Lauzon's current position and gets him back into the win column. Plus, Lauzon would never scoff at another "Performance of the Night" bonus.
Despite Gomi's string of strong performances, the wear and tear he's battled through will keep fans questioning how long he should be fighting. In his last bout, it was made obvious that there would not be any Robbie Lawler-esque renaissance for Gomi.
He's simply fighting for his spot on the roster.
Which, should the Japanese athlete pull off a victory, is assured for at least another three fights. If Gomi can manage to maintain his current skill level and is matched smartly -- no more putting him with undefeated future contenders please -- he can be a valuable asset to the company for some time.
At UFC on FOX 16, Joe Lauzon and Takanori Gomi will hunt for the finish. Which fighter will earn the victory?