Lorenz Larkin is a blur of power, speed and agility. | Photo: Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com
Lorenz Larkin embraces the unconventional.
A dynamic standup savant with thunder in his hands, feet, knees and elbows, Larkin wields a perfect professional mixed martial arts record and a following that grows by the day. The 24-year-old light heavyweight prospect seems amused by those who rush to fit him inside of a stylistic box. Larkin touts Kung Fu as his base, but, he says, there is so much more to him.
“I don’t say I’m a traditional striker because I’m willing to try things, to throw things from different angles,” says Larkin, who has drawn favorable comparisons to Dutch knockout artist Melvin Manhoef. “I’m always trying out new things, even when there seems like there’s no way to make it work.”
Larkin (10-0) will put his unorthodox approach to the test once more when he locks horns with former Ring of Combat champion Gian Villante in the Strikeforce Challengers 16 co-main event on Friday at the ShoWare Center in Kent, Wash. His ground skills and takedown defense remain largely unproven commodities, and Villante -- who wrestled and played football collegiately at Hofstra University -- figures to bring them into play. Larkin and his handlers welcome the challenge.
“Lorenz is a gifted guy,” says Sam Mason, one of Larkin’s trainers. “He’s athletic, fast and very explosive. That’s a recipe for a very dangerous fighter. Most people see him as this standup-only guy, but he really can do it all. He has a ground game and can definitely stuff a takedown. The fight starts standing, and until we have to [do otherwise], we’ll keep it there.
“His speed and power is unreal,” Mason adds. “He’s like a 155-pound fighter in a light heavyweight frame. He’s also surprisingly patient. He won’t rush in to soon. He’ll take his time and finish a guy at the right moment.”
The twice-beaten Villante (7-2), a 26-year-old Bellmore Kickboxing Academy representative, will be no pushover. Only one of his nine fights has reached the second round.
“He’s a big, strong guy,” says Arnold DeWitt, another one of Larkin’s coaches. “He almost made it into the NFL, so I’m sure he’s athletic, as well. We expect a tough fight, and he doesn’t look like he’ll go down real easy. He’s coming off a loss [to Chad Griggs], so he’s not going to come into this fight ready to lay down. We definitely expect some fireworks.”
A blur of power, speed and agility, Larkin opened eyes in his promotional debut at Strikeforce Challengers 15 in April, entering into a bout with Scott Lighty as a late replacement for Olympic gold medalist Satoshi Ishii.
Larkin set the stage for victory from the start with thudding leg kicks and clean, crisp punches. He showered Lighty with blows in the final minute of the first round, twice forcing the durable John Hackleman protégé to seek refuge on the ground. Larkin was not dissuaded. In round two, he punished his fading foe for an attempted takedown and again drove Lighty to the canvas, where he unleashed a powerful ground-and-pound onslaught. Elbows and punches fell with authority.
Lighty stood on shaky legs, took a brutal left uppercut to the nose and went down for the last time after being met with another. With that, Larkin was on the map.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” he says. “I went in just to fight. Your whole career is about winning fights and trying to get to the big leagues. Until then, everybody’s playing college ball. It was kind of like a dream. You wish for something for so long, and then you’re there.”
That Larkin reached these heights seems like no minor miracle, upon inspection of his background. One of nine children, he grew up in Riverside, Calif., 60 miles east of Los Angeles. His father, Wilbert, worked as an investment banker and frowned upon contact sports, for fear of the damage they might inflict upon his son. Larkin tried football first, despite parental objections.
“My dad was like my mom [was supposed to be], and my mom was like my dad,” he says. “I played football, and I hated it. I sucked at it.”
Not long after, the gloves went on.
“I started boxing and didn’t really get to fight [because of my dad], so I just became a gym rat,” Larkin says. “I made the decision that I wasn’t going to make it in boxing -- I was too short -- so I went and started kickboxing and jiu-jitsu.”
Inevitably, mixed martial arts drew his interest. Larkin went undefeated as an amateur and made his first professional appearance in August 2009, as he knocked out Lateef Williams with an elbow in just 40 seconds. He was a natural, it appeared, but not everyone was thrilled with Larkin’s career choice.
“At first, my dad didn’t like it, but he just wants what’s best for me,” he says with a laugh. “He was OK with it once he started to see a couple of good checks.”
In advance of his matchup with Villante, Larkin has spent time training alongside reigning Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Dan Henderson at Team Quest. Undefeated in 10 professional outings, Larkin has finished eight of his foes by knockout or technical knockout, five of them inside the first round. Results matter, but he also places a heavy emphasis on the quality of the performance. Larkin concedes he wants to entertain the masses.
“The most important thing to me is I want to keep elevating my game, keep fighting and keep putting on good fights and making it exciting for the fans,” he says. “I want to win, but I want to put on a good show, too.”
Larkin claims he feels no pressure to maintain his unblemished record. He understands defeat will one day visit his doorstep, though he hopes to delay its arrival.
“I think [being undefeated] helps me out,” he says. “Nobody stays undefeated. All it takes is one shot. I’m not going to go into panic mode if I’m in a fight and I’m losing. It happens to everybody.”
Success has only served to deepen Larkin’s hunger, and he sees plenty of room for improvement.
“I’m still learning,” he says. “I think my striking needs improving, my wrestling needs improving and my jiu-jitsu needs improving -- all of them. The more I fight, the better I become. Every time I fight, I improve. I want to be one of those memorable fighters, a force to be reckoned with, and I’m willing to take the slow road to get there.”