Lauzon, Stephens promise a war!
Report by Anthony Springer Jr
When the UFC rolls into Tampa for the first time this weekend for UFC Fight Night: Lauzon vs. Stephens at the Sun Dome, Florida fans and Spike TV viewers will be in for a lightweight main event that has the makings of an all-out slugfest. After Hermes Franca was forced off the card due to an injury, Jeremy “Little Heathen” Stephens (16-3) stepped up to face Joe Lauzon (16-4).
While the Lauzon-Stephens fight boasts two 155ers who love to stand and bang, a Lauzon-Franca fight would’ve provided a storyline that included bad blood. The Brazilian drew the ire of the elder Lauzon after criticizing a recent fight by Joe’s brother, Dan. Big brother remained respectful of Franca in spite of the dig.
“I kinda looked up to Hermes a little bit and loved to watch his fights,” Lauzon explained on a recent UFC conference call. “I was super excited to fight him because he is so good. It was all good reasons why I wanted to fight him. Now he hurt his knee and I wished him luck down the line. And then he said ‘your brother sucks, I was looking forward to fighting you after I saw how bad he is.’ The whole thing was pretty classless.”
Stephens trains with Franca, but Lauzon said he the affiliation is not a motivating factor coming into Saturday’s fight. However, “Little Heathen” was given a crash course in all things Joe Lauzon from his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt training partner. “Hermes was training very hard,” Stephens said. “He did have some game plans and information that he shared with me. Joe is a well rounded fighter and very aggressive in the standup. He told me what to watch out for, what to expect and what to work on. I do have a game plan for this fight and Hermes was a big part of that.”
Last minute fighter replacements can derail his opponents training sessions. When Stephens stepped in for France, Lauzon was not worried about fighting a different man, he was simply happy to be fighting at all.
“The biggest thing for me was the gap when I didn’t know who I was fighting,” Lauzon said. “I went from being told ‘Hermes hurt his knee’ to ‘we’re not sure if there’s a fight for you’. I train all the time; I don’t think anything is going to catch me by surprise.”
Both men were successful in their last Octagon outings. Lauzon earned a TKO victory over Kyle Bradley at UFC Fight Night: Diaz vs. Neer last September. Stephens knocked out Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 91. The victory, which earned Stephens knockout of the night impressed his future opponent.
“It was awesome,” Lauzon said of the UFC 91 Knockout of the Night. “He put the guy’s jaw in the second row. It was a great knockout. You can tell every punch he throws he’s trying to end the fight. I like to fight guys that are going for the win. I’m sure one of us is going to finish the other.
“We’re both coming to fight, we’re not going to put it in the judges hands.”