Written by Thomas Gerbasi, UFC.com
“If I go out there and blast through people, people are gonna remember and enjoy the fight. As a competitor, thatâs how Iâm picturing the fight.” – Joe Lauzon
As the crowd at Bostonâs TD Garden roared for their favorite son, Joe Lauzon, last August, the rising lightweight star almost knew that his first round victory over Gabe Ruediger was going to be a hard one to follow.
For 121 dominant seconds at UFC 118, Lauzon, simply put, did everything right. And if you want to go with the clichÃ© that Ruediger never had a chance, you would probably be accurate, as âJ-Lauâ delivered the best performance of his UFC career, and he did it at home, no less.
How do you top that? Lauzon wondered the same thing.
âMy whole career, Iâve been constantly looking for ways to get better, and how do I really improve on a fight like Ruediger,â he asks. âI go in there, I hit him a couple times, I threw him on the ground, I was all over him on the ground, I flung him around, I beat him up, and I got his arm. After the fight with Ruediger, where do you really go? Obviously everything always needs improvement, but there was no glaring weakness.â
Luckily for Lauzon, George Sotiropoulos got him back on track, and though the New Englander wound up with a second round submission loss on his record last November at UFC 123 thanks to the Aussie contender, now he knew where the holes were and he could move forward.
If it sounds like a crazy concept, itâs not. It makes perfect sense because no one goes back to the drawing board and picks themselves apart after a win. In this sport, itâs the losses that make you better, and if Lauzon one day holds a UFC championship, he will look back at Sotiropoulos, and not Ruediger, as the fight that was the turning point.
But back to Detroit, and a fight Lauzon looked like he was on his way to winning after the first five minutes.
âI thought that was my best fight boxing-wise,â he said. âI honestly felt like I couldnât miss during the fight and I thought I showed some good improvement there. I paced myself pretty good in the first round as well, and I donât think that the pace that I pushed was what really did me in,â said Lauzon. âI felt good at the end of the first round and in between rounds I felt okay.â
Then it was time for round two.
âI went to step off the stool and my legs felt like concrete. Then I knew I was in trouble. Everything we had been doing was working on the jab and beating him to the punch, and those things rely on me moving my feet and getting in and out and moving around the ring. So I knew I couldnât keep that same gameplan and it was definitely not a good feeling at all, especially since I saw him at the end of the first and he was completely broken. He just looked like he was done.â
Sotiropoulos was far from done though, and at 2:43 of the second stanza, Lauzon tapped out to a kimura. It was a disappointing defeat, his second in three fights, but while the 27-year old probably picked apart his mistakes for days and weeks, just by getting off the stool for round two when he had nothing left, he showed what it means to be a fighter.
âYou just gotta push on,â he said. âIn training we do a lot of shark bait stuff, which is basically designed to make you feel like crap and to train you to keep pushing, even when youâre exhausted. Youâre always a little bit slower, and youâre always not quite as strong. Itâs kinda like blindly rushing in when you know things arenât gonna go well. Youâre completely exhausted and you really just donât have anything to offer, but youâre still gonna try. Itâs tough, but you have to do it. Thereâs no other choice. Youâre there to fight and thatâs what you do. Thereâs no time outs. And maybe I get knocked out, but Iâm gonna go out there and try and get it done.â
Since then, Lauzon has been working his cardio âlike crazy,â along with the other aspects of his game to get ready for Sundayâs bout against Englandâs Curt Warburton. But the work just doesnât take place in the Lauzon MMA gym. For him, fighting is a 24/7 job, even when heâs not on the card.
âItâs pretty tough for me to be a fan,â he laughs. âIâm always looking for things and comparing what other people are doing with what I would do. So itâs pretty tough for me to sit back and enjoy a fight because Iâm constantly analyzing stuff. And Iâm always trying to get better too. Iâm real good at picking up habits on the ground, and Iâm really trying to pick up on things by watching standup stuff now. Boxing came really, really slow to me, and thatâs one thing Iâve been really focusing on and trying to get better at, because for jiu-jitsu, I pay very close attention, and Iâm very analytical. But for boxing, I was never like that, so Iâm really working on getting better at.â
So donât expect him to be screaming âelbowâ from the cheap seats on fight night.
âI do enjoy analyzing and breaking things down, but I think a lot of people are sitting back and just waiting for someone to get hit in the chin and go down, and thatâs definitely not me.â
In Warburton, Lauzon will be facing a fighter short on UFC experience, but long on talent and potential. âThe Warâ is 1-1 in the Octagon, with a close decision loss to Spencer Fisher last October and a points win over Maciej Jewtuszko in February. Needless to say, Lauzon has a scouting report on him.
âI think heâs tough,â said Lauzon. âHe seems like more of a kickboxer than anything, heâs very comfortable in the clinch and he looks like heâs got that wiry, tendon, wrestler-strength. I feel like heâs not necessarily gonna move me around, but slow me down, and that can be tough to deal with sometimes, even though with the exception of Manny Gamburyan, I havenât felt that anyone I fought in the UFC has been stronger than me. And even though I donât look that strong, I feel much stronger than I look, but I might not have that advantage this time around. So weâre working on trying to be quick, beating him to the punch, and all that kinda stuff.â
Just donât expect Lauzon to be sniffing out a fourth Fight of the Night award this weekend.
âBack and forth fights are good, but the way that I impress the people the most is when I put on a fight like the Ruediger fight,â he said. âI show what Iâm gonna do, and it doesnât really matter whoâs out there with me. If I go out there and blast through people, people are gonna remember and enjoy the fight. As a competitor, thatâs how Iâm picturing the fight â” I go out there, dominate the fight, push through, and do what I want to do. I donât want people to see that heâs good. I donât want the fight to go his way whatsoever the entire time. The people who didnât know him before, I donât want them to know him after the fight either, because Fight of the Night may be nice, but that means itâs back and forth and itâs a super tough fight. I donât want that. I want to control and dominate.â
And if he has to walk through fire, thatâs fine too, because heâs expecting a war from Warburton. That doesnât mean he canât try to repeat the Ruediger fight. This time though, expect a better follow-up from a young man who doesnât specialize in making the same mistake twice.
âHe (Warburton) is really, really tough, and I donât expect an easy fight whatsoever,â said Lauzon. âI expect a really, really tough fight, but at the same time, Iâm gonna come out guns blazing and try to put him away.â