Joe Lauzon is getting ready for his UFC Fight Night Live match against hard hitting knockout brawler Jeremy Stephens.
East Bridgewater –
Mixed martial arts holds the distinction of being perhaps the most unpredictable sport on the planet, as once inside the cage its practitioners must be ready for anything.
But outside the cage can be just as volatile, as East Bridgewater native Joe Lauzon recently found out. Scheduled to headline UFC’s Fight Night 13 Saturday, Feb. 7 on Spike TV, Lauzon nearly went from participant to spectator with just one phone call.
“(Original opponent) Hermes Franca tore his ACL a week ago.” stablemate Chris Palmquist related. ‘We found out Monday. Then Tuesday (Jeremy) Stephens was the first guy offered, and we accepted.”
“When I got the call, I was pretty bummed out,” Lauzon admitted. “I had been training for Hermes since the first week of December, and then I didn’t know what was going on. I had 50 people flying in to watch me fight, and now I didn’t know if I was even fighting. I found out around 9:30 on Monday night, and Tuesday afternoon we found a replacement. Those were the longest 24 hours of my life.”
The 24 hours that were conceivably longest for Lauzon’s trainer Steve Maze was the day following the official change in opponents, however. With Stephens, Lauzon will be presented with a much different challenge than with the free-swinging Franca.
“We had to adjust some things,” Maze said. “Stephens is a little wild, but not half as wild as Franca. With (Franca), you’re always worried about the wild, crazy punch. Striking, Stephens is just as good (as Franca), but on the ground he’s not, so that makes my job easier. It’s not a major adjustment; we plan to take it to him and take him down, and that hasn’t varied.”
One additional problem with the new opponent is the lack of video footage necessary for preparation.
“There’s not a ton of video on (Stephens),” Lauzon said. “We have a little, but we’re still getting some in.”
“There’s not a lot on him,” Haze concurred. “We’re getting tapes as we speak, and we’ve been using YouTube and online – but those aren’t always the best quality.”
Despite the setback, team Lauzon has unearthed several key differences in Stephens’ style that Joe will try and expose come fight night.
“With Franca, I was going to test the waters,” Lauzon said. “He throws loopier punches. I was going to try and stand and beat him to the punch. Stevens throws straighter punches, and faster punches. I’ll look to take him down a bit quicker. The big difference between the two is ground skills. On the ground, I think Franca is years ahead of (Stevens).”
After practicing mixed martial arts for several years in relative obscurity, Lauzon jumped years ahead of other fighters with his appearance on the UFC hit reality show “Ultimate Fighter” in its fifth season. Despite eventually losing, the show put Lauzon on the map in the mixed martial arts world, earned exposure to a nationwide audience, and allowed him access to one of the greatest fighters of all-time and arguably the best fighter on the planet pound-for-pound: B.J. Penn.
“Being on the show, it gives you so much exposure,” Lauzon said. “You become more known than somebody who has had way more fights. (After the show) I went to Hawaii for the better part of six months to work with B.J., and it was amazing. He’s the best in the world, so it really lets you know how far you have to go.”
“B.J. is unbelievable,” Maze (offered). “How can you beat him? His stand-up is amazing, he’s incredible on the ground. He has an iron chin, and his flexibility is ridiculous. And the two of them hit it off. Joe talks to B.J. almost every day.”
One thing Lauzon doesn’t do every day to pressure himself is a technique thought to be fundamental for a fighter: roadwork.
“I don’t run a ton,” Lauzon (said). “When I was in Hawaii I did a lot of running out there. They run like 6-8 miles every day. But I don’t feel like it helps my cardio much. It strengthens your legs, but a lot of runners run to control their weight, and I don’t have that problem. For me it’s like a 40 minute run? I’d rather a 40 minute workout.”
Lauzon – who campaigns as a 155-pound lightweight – seems to be a fighter born for the weight class. At 5-foot 9 inches he’s lanky yet compact, with knockout power in both hands, solid wrestling skills, and superior ju-jitsu. His younger brother and training partner (Dan), though now a lightweight himself, seems destined to transcend to the 170-pound division however. Dan Lauzon is fresh off an electric first round submission victory on an Affliction card headlined by Fedor Emelianko, who is generally considered the best mixed martial artist in history.
“He’s taller than me, and has a thicker frame,” Joe grinned when describing his “little” brother. “And he’s still growing; I wish he’d stop,” older brother chuckled while flanked on his right by his younger sibling, who hid a tight smirk with a downed head at (Joe’s) response.
When asked if moving up in weight was in (Dan’s) future, the younger Lauzon remained philosophic.
“Not right now,” he offered. “Right now, I make the weight (155 pounds) easy.”
Making weight is something that each Lauzon has been able to do easily, and has only been amplified following their decision to become roommates.
“The biggest thing (with being roommates) is our training,” Joe (said). “You can’t skip anything, because every morning – there’s the knock on your door. And it definitely helps conditioning. Usually when we train, he’s on break or I am because our fights aren’t at the same time. But this fight it’s different. And when we train, we keep pushing. Against your brother, blood, broken bones, cuts – you want to keep on pushing.”
This was in evidence by the Lauzon brothers’ spirited grappling session for reporters.
But it didn’t take an eyewitness account to read the writing on the veritable mixed martial arts wall: for the future, the Lauzon brothers are here to stay.
“(In the future) I have no idea.” Joe chuckled. “I just know I want to fight again soon. Last year I only fought twice, and I want more, but it depends on the fight. If I blow through, I’d want to fight again soon, if I get hurt then I’d have to fight later.”
One thing that Lauzon hopes is in his future is a rematch with fellow Massachusetts native Kenny Florian. The two met in a highly anticipated bout on April 2, and after the tough loss to the more experienced Florian, Lauzon looks to gain a measure of revenge.
“Absolutely I want a rematch,” Lauzon said. “He’s a local guy so I’m reminded all the time (of the loss). If he was from California, it wouldn’t be so bad, but I see him and his guys around all the time – so it just motivates me. (A rematch) is something I’d love to see; let’s do it in Boston.”
Massachusetts is the proud home of some of the all-time greatest icons in fighting history: Boxing’s John L. Sullivan, Sam Langford, Sandy Saddler, Rocky Marciano, and Marvin Hagler
With Joe Lauzon, come fight-night that list looks to expand.
By Matt Mulligan