Joe Lauzon has the well-deserved reputation of being one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC. He has eleven post-fight bonus awards (six submission of the night, four fight of the night and one KO of the night), putting him in a tie for first on the all-time list in the UFC. The man he shares the top spot with is none other than Anderson Silva, not exactly bad company.
Lauzon burst on to the UFC scene in jaw-dropping fashion, dropping Jens Pulver via first-round TKO in what was to be the the former UFC lightweight champion’s triumphant return to the promotion. He then turned heads on the fifth season of The Ultimate Fighter, defeating Brian Geraghty and Cole Miller before falling short to Manny Gamburyan.
Since then, Lauzon has been a fixture in the UFC’s deepest division, racking up wins and post-fight bonuses. But title contention has eluded the Massachusetts native, something he hopes to change with a win at UFC 155 over Jim Miller.
Miller is coming off the first submission loss of his career to Nate Diaz, who went on to be granted a title shot against Benson Henderson. Miller also shares Lauzon’s reputation as one of the division’s most skilled grapplers. The fight itself should prove to be a scintillating ground war, and a win would put “J-Lau” on the short list when it comes to the prospect of a title shot.
Lauzon was originally supposed to square off with Gray Maynard until a knee injury sidelined Maynard. But Lauzon says the substitution isn’t affecting his preparation in a major way.
“You look at Jim Miller or Gray Maynard, they both have good wrestling, and they both have good Jiu-Jitsu. I think that Gray was heavier on the wrestling and less on the Jiu-Jitsu and I think Miller is the opposite. So, the game plan changed up a little bit but not a ton. You know, training doesn’t change all that much. The most unfortunate part on my end was I brought Ricky Lundell in to help me work on grappling and Jiu-Jitsu stuff. We game planned pretty specifically for certain opponents and it sucks because we already worked on stuff for Gray all week long while Ricky was in here and the day that he’s leaving we get a call saying that everything changed in the opponent. It’s just really unfortunate overall but it’s the way it goes. You just got to roll with the punches.”
One thing that has been missing in the lead up to this fight has been trash talk. Both Lauzon and Miller are known as two of the nicest gentlemen in the sport. The two have even forged a friendship born on the UFC’s PR circuit.
“I have talked to him a whole bunch of times, you know, fights, autograph signings and stuff like that. We actually have the same guy for both of our sponsors. So, there have been a bunch of times where we did, like, an autograph signing, an appearance at a car dealership in Toronto and we’ve done some stuff like that. Whenever I see him, you know, I’m a big Jim Miller fan. I love to watch his fights. He’s exciting. I think he’s kind of like me, he brings it every time and you know, he’s got great submission, great Jiu Jitsu.. I’m definitely a big Jim Miller fan, but it won’t matter. I think we have a lot of mutual respect but at the same time, we’re both going to go out there and try to murder each other.”
With both men’s respective grappling pedigree, avoiding the ground game entirely and choosing to duke it out on the feet becomes an option. But Lauzon remains ultra-confident in his ground skills, even against someone as dangerous as Miller. Having said that, he is quick to point out the old adage of “every fight begins on the feet”.
“I like to think that I always have the advantage on the ground pretty much whoever I’m against. I’m a pro at Jiu-Jitsu, but I think that MMA Jiu-Jitsu I’m like a world champ. So, I feel really really good on the ground against pretty much anyone. At the same time, the fight starts on the feet and there’s no better way to lose than to try to rush the game to the ground and getting too desperate shots and all that kind of stuff. So where going to start on our feet, and I really think that whoever makes the first mistake is going to pay dearly for it. Now whether it’s me, with a good shot or bad or on him, however it goes but I think that whoever makes the first mistake is going to be the one to lose and pay for it.
I think first or second round by submission. You know, I have no idea how it’s going to go. I think, completely it’s going to be like a coin toss. I think that whoever gets to land the first grazing punch and hurt the other one just a bit, I think is going to capitalize on that blow.”
Lauzon is banking on landing first and forcing Miller to make that all-important mistake. Should that happen, the UFC will be forced to find a marquee fight for the self-professed “video game nerd” who racks up post-fight bonuses as quickly as he does Call of Duty kills.