Joe Lauzon vs. Sam Stout

The Breakdown: The only black magic free bout on the main card, Lauzon and Stout are both lightweights on the rebound looking to strengthen their foothold in the Octagon. While the obvious clash is one of striker vs. grappler, the truth is much more nuanced than that basic assessment.

The more important variable is how Stout’s newfound takedown defense matches up against Lauzon, who will look to get this fight on the mat every second it’s upright. Just watch Lauzon’s match with Jeremy Stephens from Fight Night 17 and you’ll see him pull guard, drop for submissions and generally do anything and everything he possibly can to get the fight in his comfort zone.

Developing takedown defense is one thing, but dealing with a grappler who knows every trick in the book for getting a fight horizontal is a different game. Some would argue that Stout’s striking is the difference-maker, but Stout lacks kill-shot power and Lauzon simply won’t give him the space he needs to so much as flick a jab. Stopping a takedown is meaningless when you don’t have the firepower to keep your opponent from simply trying as many times as he needs to get the job done.

The X-Factor: The most obvious flaw in Lauzon’s grappling is that his willingness to work off his back and daisy chain submissions often leaves his opponents free to posture up and rain pain from above. While Stout hasn’t shown a particular predilection for ground-and-pound, most strikers take to it naturally. His cheering section better hope he comes just as ready to work strikes on the mat as he is on the feet.

The Bottom Line: Fighters like Lauzon give you no choice but to grapple with them because they simply don’t care about top position and will employ every tool they have to get to the ground. If Stout’s footwork wasn’t lethargic and his power lacking, he’d have a real chance of catching Lauzon on his way in. As is, he won’t fare any better than Stephens did. Lauzon kicks off his year the same way he started his last one, with a second-round submission win.

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