by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
No one could say it was an easy win at UFC Fight Night 17 in Tampa, Fla., for Joe Lauzon, but it was impressive. He and Jeremy Stephens battled deep into the second round on Saturday night before Lauzon locked on the main event ending armbar.
Stephens looked like he came close to ending the fight on a couple of occasions with the power in his hands, but Lauzon was masterful with his grappling technique, using several submission attempts and a controlling grappling game to keep Stephens off balance.
Stephens would come back strong deep in round two, opening a cut on Lauzon’s forehead. The Massachusetts-based fighter patiently worked his was into full mount, however, and sprung a deep armbar on Stephens, leaving him no choice but to submit.
“He’s good, he hits haaaard,” stated Lauzon with a deep Bostonian accent. “Even when I had my hands up, I was feeling the power.”
That wouldn’t deter him from constantly searching for a finish, which he found just before the end of round two. “I knew we were getting close to the end of the round. I was trying, trying, trying; a little worried he was going to tough it out. He didn’t tap against Din Thomas, but I got the stoppage.”
The win is Lauzon’s second straight since dropping a main event bout in Colorado to number one contender Kenny Florian early last year. Asking for no relief, Lauzon is ready to continue his climb back up the UFC lightweight ladder, saying, “I want another tough fight.”
Though he has yet to face the upper echelon of the class, Cain Velasquez continued to dominate his heavyweight opposition. His opponent, Golden Glory fighter Denis Stojnic, had no answer to the relentless striking attack of the two-time All-American wrestler from Arizona State University.
Earlier in the week, Velasquez told MMAWeekly.com Radio, “I’m not just a wrestler; I’m an MMA fighter.” It was a statement that he drove home on Saturday night, repeatedly to nearly every part of Stojnic’s body, utilizing an array of techniques to relentlessly mix up his attack from body to head to legs.
Thrashing Stojnic throughout, Velasquez was unable to put the Bosnian away in the opening round, finishing him with a ground and pound assault in round two. It would be the first time in his career that he would see the second stanza, improving his undefeated record to 5-0.
Unhappy with his performance despite the win, Velasquez later said, “I guess what it was, I wasn’t relaxed,” explaining why it wasn’t a more explosive finish.
Seemingly destined to contend for the UFC heavyweight title, the Team AKA fighter isn’t rushing anything. “Whatever the UFC gives me,” he said of whom he wants to fight next. “I have to go back to the gym start training harder again. I swear, next time you’re gonna see a lot better showing.”
Coming into his fight with Ultimate Fighter 6 winner Mac Danzig riding a wave of controversy over a New Year’s arrest for allegedly driving while intoxicated and leading police on a high-speed chase, perhaps Josh Neer felt the weight of the controversy on his shoulders and the need to shuck it off.
The first round saw the two go back and forth, each earning his just dues. Fighting like he had nothing to lose, Neer took over in round two, punishing Danzig early with some brutal forearms that had the Xtreme Couture fighter hurt. Danzig turned the tables, going to work from Neer’s guard, but it would be the controversial Midwesterner that climbed his legs up and locked on a tight triangle choke for the tapout.
He took center ring with Joe Rogan amidst a shower of boos following the fight. “Honestly, I don’t care what you guys think about me man. Love me or hate me, it don’t matter to me.”
Addressing his constant forward pressure during the fight, he stated, “I came to this fight ready to die.” It didn’t have to go that far, but Neer definitely gave no quarter to Danzig.
Anthony Johnson took another step in his development Saturday night, improving his professional record to 7-2 with a crushing defeat of American Top Team’s Luigi Fioravanti. The two started off slow, just kind of feeling each other out, but following a brief break due to a low blow to Johnson, the tables quickly turned. Johnson dropped Fioravanti twice with the precise power in his right hand, following him down on the second drop and finished him off with an onslaught of punches and hammerfists.
“I’m happy I got a win. My performance, I could have done so much better,” said a self-critical Johnson after the fight, not as impressed with himself as fans were. “I came out sloppy, but I’m only 24 years old, I’ve got a lot of improving to do.”
The rest of the UFC welterweight division can’t be hoping for him to improve much more, Johnson is already a scary prospect to step into the Octagon with.
UFC Fight Night 17 Results:
Main Card Bouts:
-Joe Lauzon def. Jeremy Stephens by Submission (Armbar) at 4:43, R2
-Cain Velasquez def. Denis Stojnic by TKO (Strikes) at 2:34, R2
-Josh Neer def. Mac Danzig by Submission (Triangle Choke) at 3:36, R2
-Anthony Johnson def. Luigi Fioravanti by TKO (Strikes) at 4:39, R1
-Kurt Pellegrino def. Rob Emerson by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 3:14, R2
-Dan Miller def. Jake Rosholt by Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 1:03, R1
-Gleison Tibau def. Rich Clementi by Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 4:35, R1
-Matt Veach def. Matt Grice by TKO (Strikes) at 4:34, R1
-Nick Catone def. Derek Downey by Submission (Keylock) at 1:15, R2
-Matt Riddle def. Steve Bruno by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)