Lauzon Switches Gears for Stephens

By Lutfi Sariahmed Feb 5, 2009
With about two weeks left before his headlining fight against Hermes Franca this Saturday at UFC Fight Night 17 in Tampa, Fla., Joe Lauzon was thrown the proverbial curve ball. Out went Franca with a torn ACL in his right knee and in stepped Jeremy Stephens, leaving Lauzon only a few days to re-tool his strategy.

“It’s all right,” Lauzon told Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show on Monday. “A fight is a fight. It kind of sucks because we had game-planned for Hermes so much. But it happens. It’s not as bad as me getting injured and having to pull out.”

Lauzon, who burst onto the scene with an unexpected knockout over former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver at UFC 63 in September 2006, has been quoted as saying the fight with Stephens would be “easier.” Though that’s thanks, in large part, to the ground acumen of his new opponent.

“I just think it’s a different fight,” said Lauzon. “With Hermes I would have to take him down because he has great defense and he’s real good on his feet. You don’t want to get caught with anything. So the plan would be to take him down. Once you take him down, then you have to deal with a black belt in jiu-jitsu. I just think that once you take him down Stephens isn’t the same caliber as Hermes. I’m sure he’s very good. I’m not knocking him at all. I just think it’s a different kind of fight.”

It might be a new kind of scrap, but it’s still the second main event billing for the Bridgewater, Mass., lightweight and he hopes it goes better than the first. Lauzon (17-4) came out on the short end against Kenny Florian at UFC fight Night 13 last April, dropping a second-round loss to the No. 1 contender by technical knockout.

“I didn’t have nerves at all until the day of the fight when every single person asked, ‘Aren’t you nervous? I’d be nervous if I were you,’” Lauzon said. “Then it kind of got to me all last minute. But so far no nerves [for Stephens]. I usually don’t get nervous. Until that fight [against Florian], I didn’t have nerves for any of my fights, even when I was fighting amateur. I never really got nervous. But I don’t know. We’ll see how this one goes.”

The loss to Florian snapped a six-fight win streak for Lauzon, three of which came inside the Octagon. He has since bested Kyle Bradley via a second-round TKO stoppage at UFC Fight Night 15 last September. The 25-year-old former computer programmer is looking back to the Florian loss to avoid making the same mistakes this Saturday.

“The main thing is that I have to calm down a little bit,” said Lauzon. “I’m always real aggressive coming out. I rushed into a lot though against Kenny. I got cut and, to me, I thought, ‘I have to win this because they’re going to stop it and I have to win this right away.’ I burned myself out. I didn’t pace myself. I was doing stupid things. I took Kenny down and passed his guard and then I tried to leglock him. I should’ve stayed inside working punches. But instead I rushed things. That’s probably the biggest thing I took from it.”

The fight with Florian also helped Lauzon get ready for another go in the spotlight.

“Also the experience of being main event, being the big fight and having all the attention on you and just dealing with it -- that’s definitely going to help me a ton this time,” said Lauzon. “I did like six interviews a day last time. It was like an interview every half hour if I wasn’t in the gym. I got much better with that stuff.”

In what many consider a stacked lightweight division, Stephens (14-3) –- who knocked out newcomer Rafael dos Anjos with a walloping uppercut at UFC 91 last November -- is just the start of a progressively harder road to the top. But, as always, what’s next after this fight is subject to change.

“I’ll fight who they want me to fight, whatever the UFC thinks,” said Lauzon. “I thought the Kenny fight was a little too early, but they wanted it and we did it. I wasn’t going to say, ‘I’m not going to fight him.’ Maybe I was right and it was too early. But I’ll do whatever they want me to do and I’m ready to do whatever. I think no matter who I’ll fight it’ll be a competitive fight. Maybe I won’t win them all, but whoever I go and fight it’s going to be a good fight.”
<h2>Fight Finder</h2>
Around The Web