Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Breaking News: State's Toughest Guy Beats up State's Second-Toughest Guy

Lloyd Dobler famously noted that kickboxing was the "sport of the future." Despite having shitty taste in trenchcoats and music (you lure a woman with...Peter fucking Gabriel? In my day, we'd blare Iron Maiden and punch her father in the temple before bending her over the Camaro), our favorite Caucasian Say Anything character was partially right in this assumption. Dobler just happened to leave out jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai, amateur wrestling, judo, and all of the other elements that comprise the real sport of the future: Mixed Martial Arts.

Though other organizations are slowly starting to creep up behind them in relevance and revenue, the undisputed king of MMA right now is the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The UFC has local ties at its highest offices, as president Dana White is from Southie and a former boxer. He's also the biggest fan of the word "fuck" in human history.

Tonight the UFC ran its latest free "Fight Night" event, held near Denver. The show had local ties, as the main event pitted the top two UFC fighters from the state of Massachusetts: lightweights Joe Lauzon and Kenny Florian.

Lauzon, a Bridgewater native, represents the future of MMA. Only 23, Lauzon survived through the semifinals of last season's "Ultimate Fighter" reality show, proving himself to be a smart grappler (13 submission victories) with heavy hands (meaning that he punches dudes really fucking hard, often in the face). He made his MMA debut in 2006, and immediately knocked out former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver in a HUGE upset. Going into Wednesday night, Lauzon had won his last six fights.

Florian, 31, is viewed as an MMA veteran with no appreciable weaknesses. Before fighting in MMA, Florian earned a black belt in jiu-jitsu (think grappling) from the Gracie Barra school in Boston. Since then, Florian has trained in Muay Thai (striking) with Mark DellaGrotte, one of the world's foremost Muay Thai coaches. He lost his only title fight to Sean Sherk, who was later found to be a steroid user. Florian had won his three fights since then, all in deciding fashion. He also guest lectures at my Muay Thai school, which makes him infinitely awesome and able to kill me 43 ways with a pimento.

So Wednesday's battle was seen as one between the Massachusetts veteran and the quickly rising youngster. A win for Lauzon would have firmly put him on the map, while a Florian win would merely solidify his status as one of the three or four best lightweights in the UFC. On to the fight:

Round 1: Quick kick to the head by Lauzon and a takedown by Florian. Takedown by Joe but Florian retains guard and starts raining in elbows to Joe's head. Huge cut opened up on the top of Lauzon's head (jesus does Florian have razor-sharp elbows), and the ref warns Florian for shots to the back of the head. Florian then began to dominate on the ground, gaining positioning at will and gaining control, but not able to finish with a submission or KO, which is a credit to Lauzon, who just kept escaping predicament after predicament. Lauzon tries to sink in two separate heel hooks at the end of the round, but Florian is too much of a veteran to fall into that move. FIVE STAR ROUND, both guys were constantly moving and trying to gain the advantage.

Round 2: This round was all Florian. Slower start than the last round, both guys stood up for first minute or so of the round, trying to look for open shots. Neither guy has established much of a standup game here, most of the action has come on the ground. Florian then got the takedown and eventually got into full mount (like when your big brother would sit on your chest and slap you around). Started TEEING OFF on Lauzon's head for more than a full minute, placing his punches in between and around the blocking hands of Lauzon. Ref finally stopped fight, Florian by KO at 3:28 of the second round.

Thoughts:
At no point in this match was there any doubt that Florian was the superior and more experienced fighter, but that's not to say Lauzon didn't account for himself well. He was fighting a guy eight years older, and there were moments in the bout where you couldn't help but think "a year from now, Lauzon will know how to escape from that" or "If Joe only knew better, he could counter this." Florian, while he looked good, worried me in that he probably should have finished this match earlier. You won't get a full minute in mount against some of the better lightweights, and he's going to have to pack more knockout power in his hands/feet if he's going to compete for titles. Still, this fight was awesome, especially the first round, which was an MMA clinic.

Photos courtesy Spike TV, Atco Records

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