Though he only had one fight in 2014, featherweight Justin ‘American Kid’ Lawrence made it count.
Coming off a nearly year-long layoff, Justin Lawrence was able to get a unanimous decision victory over Mark “Tricky” Dickman to claim the RFA 145-pound title last August.
“In the RFA, every time he came out he had a dominating performance and a lot of big wins over some top guys with a lot of finishes,” Lawrence said of Dickman. “But I felt like I really went out there and implemented my game plan and stuffed his wrestling and made him play my game, which is the stand-up battle.
“Once I hit him and he felt my power, he was on his heels, and I was able to do what I wanted to and push the pace of the fight. I have a lot of respect for him. He’s a super-tough guy, I hit him super hard and I couldn’t put him away. I even kicked him in the head and he ate it. But at the end of the day I was the better fighter.”
Lawrence told MMAWeekly.com that going a full five rounds and claiming the RFA title was a huge boost for him, and it will show when he returns to the company on April 10.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot more confidence going into this upcoming fight,” He said. “You never want to be over-confident, because that never ends well. But I’ve been fighting since I was seven, eight years, and I definitely know when you have too much confidence.
“It’s just saying I just won a title and got some recognition, it’s definitely a lot of motivation and confidence going into this fight.”
Lawrence (6-2) will make his first defense of his RFA title in Sioux Falls, S.D., against Sam Toomer (9-0) this Friday night.
“He’s long, he’s tall, he’s lanky, and I think he’s going to want to strike with me, so I’ve got to keep footwork high, my head movement on point and just come in and let him feel my speed and power,” said Lawrence of Toomer. “Once he feels that, I feel I’ll be able to dictate the fight.
“The main thing is really keeping my head on a swivel, use my movement and not sit there and let him be long and pick me apart from the outside.”
Having won the title in 2014, Lawrence feels by defending it against a fighter such as Toomer, it could help catapult him back into the UFC before year’s end.
“I think it’s going to be huge for me,” said Lawrence. “(Toomer’s) got a good record that I want to put a loss on.
“Getting that kind of ring time under the lights and the pressure is on you and the back is to the wall and you really have to go out there and perform, it really brings out the best of your abilities. I feel like beating him can really catapult me to the next level.”