Bonus king Lauzon returns

Wed, 22 Jun 02:27:00 2011

Yahoo! US MMA expert Kevin Iole takes a look at Joe Lauzon, who is builidng a reputation within the sport for explosive bouts.

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One of the wise things that Zuffa, the company that owns the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Strikeforce, does to encourage its fighters to put on a great match is to offer post-fight bonuses for best knockout, best submission and best fight.

In his nine-fight UFC career, Joe Lauzon has won three Submission of the Night awards (over Brandon Melendez, Jeremy Stephens and Gabe Ruediger), has been in three Fights of the Night (against Kenny Florian, Sam Stout and George Sotiropoulos), and has a Knockout of the Night to his credit (against Jens Pulver).

Forgive Lauzon, however, if he declines in advance any nomination for Fight of the Night for his bout Sunday at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh against Curt Warburton.

That’s because Lauzon’s three losses in the UFC came in those three Fight-of-the-Night efforts. A boring win would suit him just fine.

The E. Bridgewater, Mass., native is 6-3 in the UFC but 3-3 in his last six outings. Given how many fewer jobs the UFC has in each division after adding bantamweight and featherweight classes, fighters who don’t win regularly also don’t have very good job security.

Lauzon, 27, is well aware of the tenuous nature of his job.

“I don’t think if I lost this fight I would get cut, but there’s no doubt that in the next fight, my job would be on the line,” he said. “I started out strong, but recently, I have gone ‘win one, lose one.’ That’s what I need to stop.”

None of his losses have come at the hands of stiffs, and Florian already has had two cracks at the lightweight belt and will soon gain a shot at the featherweight belt. Still, though, a loss is a loss and one can only explain them away so much when there is such keen competition.

He came back too quickly from ACL surgery before his lost to Stout and had an adrenaline dump in the second round of his defeat to Sotiropoulos. But while he concedes he’s lost to quality opposition, he puts the onus for those defeats squarely on himself.

“On pretty much all of the fights I’ve lost, I think I’ve underperformed,” Lauzon said. “For the Sam Stout fight, I think I rushed. I came back way too fast. I had in my head I’m going to have ACL surgery and I’m going to fight 10 months later. ..… I thought I would be 100-percent healthy, but I don’t think I was. I was getting to the point where I could train 100 percent as the fight rolled around.

“For the Sotiropoulos fight, I feel like I was better than that guy all day long. I was all over him the first round. It must have been the biggest adrenaline dump of my life [in the second round]. I did so well in the first round. I always feel my boxing is my weakness, but I was clearly outboxing him. I was all over him and remember thinking, ‘Don’t get too excited.’ But my brain got the best of me, and I had this huge adrenaline dump.”

Lauzon, who sold an unbelievably high 600 tickets to UFC 118 in Boston, will have a large group in Pittsburgh to cheer him on. He’s making no predictions other than that he’ll fight hard and fight smart, though he clearly wouldn’t mind a bit of luck.

And despite his .500 record in his last six fights, he hasn’t put the dream of a title fight away.

“I hang with all of those guys,” Lauzon said of the UFC’s top lightweight contenders. “B.J. [Penn] gets the best of me, but that’s B.J. Penn. It’s rare I’m outclassed by anyone. I can compete with those guys.

“You hear stories of guys who do great in the gym but can’t put it together on fight night. I think I perform well, but I had a couple of fights where I didn’t perform up to my own expectations.”

MMA Musings

Though it’s important to not make too much of Josh Barnett’s victory over Brett Rogers on Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Strikeforce World Grand Prix heavyweight tournament, given that Rogers essentially does not have a ground game, it also was an example of why Barnett will be its likely winner. The former UFC champion has the most well-rounded game of the semifinalists and is the most versatile.

I can’t blame Alistair Overeem for not wanting to go to the ground at any point in his bout Saturday with Fabricio Werdum, but I couldn’t help but think that he would be on his back a lot were he fighting UFC champion Cain Velasquez instead.

Cheick Kongo and Pat Barry will fight on Sunday in Pittsburgh in what figures to be a highly entertaining bout. But in May, the two men shared breakfast, chatting amiably with each other prior to the start of the UFC Fighter Summit at the Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas. The camaraderie between men who will soon attempt to tear each other’s heads off is one of many things that makes MMA such a great sport.

I’m expecting a very good – and winning – performance from Matt Mitrione on Sunday in his fight against Christian Morecraft. Mitrione is soon going to become a major player in the UFC heavyweight division.

Just wondering: If long-time nemesis Tito Ortiz is beaten by Ryan Bader on July 2 at UFC 132, and thus drops his fourth fight in a row, will UFC president Dana White rush into the cage to personally hand him his walking papers? Ortiz hasn’t won a fight since defeating Ken Shamrock on Oct. 10, 2006.

Kevin Iole / Yahoo

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