September 19, 2006

by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
To say that Jason “Punisher” Lambert is one of the most underrated fighters in MMA today is an understatement. Rarely mentioned when it comes to the UFC light-heavyweight title contention picture, Lambert just may be the true #1 contender for Chuck Liddell’s title.

“Why is that?” you may be asking yourself. Just a look at Jason’s recent accomplishments should be more than enough to answer that.

Overall Lambert sports a 22-5 record, comparable to that of Renato “Babalu” Sobral’s – the man that last fought Liddell for the 205lb Championship. And much like Sobral, Jason has gotten better as he’s matured as a fighter.

Throwing out the loss to Kim Jong Wang in 2001, Lambert’s remaining losses have been to UFC contract fighters including legend Marco Ruas, current Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia, Wesley “Cabbage” Correira and Chael Sonnen.

Since the loss to Sonnen at the end of 2003, Jason has been on a tear, winning eight in a row and in all eight bouts, only one went to a decision. Again, much like Sobral, he’s not only put together a winning streak, but he’s performed well in that streak.

And when it comes to the class of opposition he’s won against, that too is as impressive as the short list of people he’s lost to. Over the last two years he’s beaten the likes of IFL standout Matt Horwich…MMA veterans Marvin Eastman and Travis Wiuff…and most recently in his three UFC fights, Rob Macdonald, Terry Martin and Brandon Lee Hinkle.

All tough opposition that have more than won their own share of battles in the MMA arena, yet only one, Marvin Eastman was able to push Jason to the limit.

Yet, still Lambert remains something of an unknown commodity, known by the hardcore fans, but not quite receiving the kind of push that could get him an eventual title shot. All of that could change however at this weekend’s UFC 63 event.

While Jason has faced more veteran talent in the past, he has yet to lock horns with an opponent with the kind of fan support and buzz that Rashad Evans has earned in the UFC.

Evans of course gained much of that attention by winning The Ultimate Fighter 2 reality show. Having beaten Tom Murphy, Mike Whitehead, Keith Jardine and lastly Brad Imes in the finals, fame came quickly to the relatively inexperienced Rashad.

The build up around Evans continued to escalate with wins over TUF 1 contestants Sam Hogar and Stephan Bonnar in Ultimate Fight Night events. However with all of his success one thing remains glaringly clear, unlike Lambert, Rashad has not finished any of his opponents and in most cases done just enough to win.

With Lambert’s relentless aggression and more seasoned skills, look to him to push the pace of the fight and perhaps overwhelm the less experienced Evans. Jason is a quick starter and loves to impose himself on his opponent, if Rashad isn’t ready for that right away, it could be a quick and painful night for the reality TV star.

As the UFC waits for Liddell and Tito Ortiz to settle their issue later in the year, now is the time for the young talent of the light-heavyweight division to begin to jockey for position to see who will be the next to challenge for the belt.

Should Jason win convincingly over Rashad Evans at UFC 63 there should be no reason for him not to get the kind of attention needed to garner a title shot.

Lambert has put in the work, he has performed, and most importantly he can provide the exciting finish… and if that’s not a top contender for a title in the modern era of the UFC, then what is?