by Mick Hammond
Transitions are never easy to make in life. Moving from one level to another, going up or going down, there’s always going to be periods to which someone has to make adjustments. For Travis Lutter his transition from the small shows to the bigtime is currently undergoing a bit of turmoil.

After making a successful debut at UFC 50 by stepping up to light-heavyweight and defeating KOTC veteran Marvin “Beastman” Eastman in spectacular fashion, Lutter had seemingly arrived on the scene. However sixteen months later Lutter finds himself at the crossroads he currently occupies, win and stay close to the major leagues or lose and be relegated to second tier status.

Like many fighters, Lutter’s rise to biggest stage of American MMA came the hard way, by working his way through the ranks. Beginning with background in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, where he eventually became a black belt, Travis too a single fight in 1998 at a small show called Power Ring Warriors. An event noteworthy for not only Lutter’s participation but for featuring eventual UFC/Pride superstar Yves Edwards and the debut of future TUF 1/UFC standout Mike Swick.

After spending nearly four years away from the sport, Lutter re-emerged, aligned with the famed Lion’s Den team in Texas, ready to make a serious run at MMA. Upon winning his first fight back in the Hook ‘N Shoot organization over Chris Munsun, Travis seemed on the right track. In his next fight however, things wouldn’t go so smoothly.

Matched up against future UFC fighter Jorge Rivera in Ring of Fury, Lutter had difficulty dealing with the striking skills of Rivera and late in the third round fell to an onslaught of Rivera punches and the fight was stopped by the referee. Like many submission specialists he was too comfortable on the ground and it cost him.

Heading overseas to the European Vale Tudo circuit, Travis’ submission skills paid off as he won his next two fights via submission. Then with injuries decimating many of the scheduled talent at UFC 50, Lutter stepped in as a late replacement for Patrick Cote, who interestingly was replacing Travis’ mentor Guy Mezger in the main event against Tito Ortiz, to face Eastman.

After a somewhat uneventful first round, Lutter and Eastman met in the middle of the octagon where upon slipping a punch, Lutter landed a counter shot that stiffened Marvin and sent him falling back to the canvas. The BJJ black belt had knocked out a regarded kickboxer in one of the more unpredictable outcomes of the year. But just as instantly as Lutter knocked out Eastman, so did the criticism begin.

How good was Travis really many wondered. Was the Eastman fight and the famous “phantom punch,” that almost didn’t appear to connect in replays, a true show of skill or was it a fluke of luck? Lutter would have his opportunity to answer his detractors in his next fight against consensus top ranked middleweight Matt “The Law” Lindland at UFC 52.

It appeared to be a good match-up for Travis, he’d be fighting an aggressive wrestler that would provide him with opportunities to work submissions, but much like the Eastman fight, the outcome of his battle with Lindland would be yet another unpredictable one.

After being on the end of a classic Lindland smothering in the first round, Lutter came out in the second looking to apply himself and perhaps got a little too aggressive. During a skirmish Travis found himself in a position not many could have predicted, his head locked in a guillotine choke and tapping out. The wrestler had submitted the BJJ black belt.

Travis would go over to Cage Rage in England and get a quick submission victory before being brought back to the UFC to face Trevor Prangley at UFC 54. Again matched up against an opposing style of fighting, Lutter had difficulty applying himself against the heavy hitting Prangley. Unable to get in on the powerful South African, Travis lost a unanimous decision and now finds himself in need of a win.

At Cage Rage 15 Lutter faces a veteran striker that has been involved in nearly ever kind of MMA battle in the guise of Jose “Pele” Landi-Jons. If the name sounds familiar to American fans it is because Landi-Jons, a former team leader with Chute Boxe, has faced some of the best fighters in MMA including Chuck Liddell Pat Miletich, Dave Menne, Matt Hughes, and many others. Currently Pele is on something of a rebirth, having won two in a row and looking to add Lutter to the notches on his belt.

To win this fight Travis must be patient. Landi-Jons feeds on aggressiveness and is an excellent counter striker. If Lutter can wear him down slowly he may be able to get Pele frustrated enough to make a mistake. If anything Jose has shown he can be submitted if someone is willing to take the time to wait for an opening. Should Travis try to stand and trade with Pele, he could find himself in for a quick rude awakening against the Muay Thai specialist.

A win for Lutter would be great towards not only boosting his confidence but also could help lead him back to the UFC or perhaps a date with current Cage Rage Champ Anderson Silva or possibly even to Japan for work. A loss and Travis could find himself on the long road back via many appearances in small shows over what could be a few years.

This is a make or break fight for Travis Lutter. His opponent is well known and respected in the MMA circles; an impressive performance could go a long way in helping put him on the track towards bigger things. If he seizes the opportunity it could very well be the foundation for future success. However if he fails to take advantage, it may just be the next nail in the coffin of a career that was close, but ultimately fell a day late and a dollar short.