Last-minute showdown: Lauzon collides with Stephens
Preview by Brady Crytzer
Photo by Joe Cordova Brawlin.net
There is no bigger question mark in combat sports than the fate of last minute replacement. Originally slated to face tough jiu jitsu black belt Hermes Franca in the main event of UFC Fight Night 17 on Saturday, February 7th, Joe Lauzon now must prepare for an entirely different kind of opponent. Instead of fighting the veteran Franca, Lauzon is now scheduled to meet Des Moines, Iowa’s Jeremy “Lil’ Heathen” Stephens. Starting as the aging warrior challenging the young upstart, UFN 17’s main event has transformed overnight into a high profile showdown between two of the lightweight division’s best young hopefuls. With one of the most intriguing fights of the new year, the Ultimate Fighting Championship makes its debut on the campus of the University of South Florida in a big way.
Although Lauzon came up short in his campaign on The Ultimate Fighter 5, there is little doubt that he is one of the sport’s premiere lightweights. Prior to his TUF stint, Lauzon made his UFC debut a memorable one by stopping Jens Pulver in his highly anticipated return.
While most fighters with a high profile UFC victory under their belts would turn down an offer to fight on a reality series, Lauzon saw an opportunity to earn greater exposure in front of a national television audience. Despite not becoming the series champion, Lauzon is still number one in the hearts and minds of his fans.
There was no limelight for Jeremy Stephens. Making his MMA debut at the age of 18, Stephens scraped and clawed his way through the Midwest’s vaunted cage fighting scene to earn his spot in the UFC. Though he lost in his Octagon debut to the veteran Din Thomas via armbar, Stephens has rallied to win four of his last five.
In his most recent bout, Stephens knocked out fellow youngster Rafael dos Anjos in the third round after connecting with a vicious homerun uppercut.
The Verdict: Lauzon. While the Franca bout would test the younger fighter’s ability to handle a crafty veteran, the Stephens match up will challenge Lauzon’s heart like never before. No matter how much success he has, Stephens remains one of the youngest fighters on the UFC roster. In his latest bout, “Lil’ Heathen” battled adversity for three rounds against dos Anjos only to stop him late in the bout.
Lauzon has the edge in every department with the possible exception of wrestling. While “J-Lau” is a relative newcomer in his own right, he has irreplaceable “big fight” experience and has trained with some of the best in the world.
Lauzon should eek out the victory on February 7th with a more seasoned submission game, but don’t expect this to be easy. If Lauzon does not come ready for the fight of his life, he may be leaving the University of South Florida a loser.