Wednesday, April 4, 2007

After beating former champ Pulver, Joe Lauzon hopes to have a special encore on TUF 5

By John Buhl

The UFC had big plans last year when they re-signed Jens Pulver, the only fighter to ever hold the organization’s lightweight title at the time. He was already slated to coach on the fifth season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), so all they needed was a tough, durable opponent for him to beat last September at UFC 63 to showcase his skills. There was just one small problem: Joe Lauzon was looking for a showcase of his own, and he scored a breathtaking TKO victory over Pulver less than one minute into the match, earning his own spot on TUF 5.

Even after his most impressive wins, the 14-3 Massachusetts-based fighter is often very critical of his in-ring performance. But even he couldn’t find much that went wrong in the Pulver fight.

“I was stepping to my left, but I was taking bigger steps than I would have liked. I got Jens to cover up well, and I hit the single leg that we had drilled to death in training. Once I got him on the ground, I got into a mindset of just grappling as opposed to being in a fight,” Lauzon said. “When Jens got back up, faking the shot worked perfectly, and we did exactly as we had planned: right knee to the left hook, and that was that. I think I controlled the fight from start to finish, and I don't think Jens even threw a single punch. I attacked from the opening bell, kept him on the run and never let him get off.”

While the outcome surprised many, a close look at Lauzon’s resume shows that his spot in the UFC wasn’t a fluke. He submitted UFC veteran Mike Brown in just his sixth professional fight. The three fighters that put blemishes on his record – Jorge Masvidal, Rafael Assuncao, and Ivan Menjivar – have a combined record of 39-10. Nevertheless, Lauzon knew he had accomplished something very special.

“I was a little shocked...very happy...and I found it a little ironic we did so much cardio for such a short fight,” said Lauzon, describing his reaction right after knocking out the former champ. “I had felt cheated in the past when fights were really short because of all the cardio work we put in, but this [wasn’t] one of those times.”

Lauzon added: “Words really can't describe the feeling I had when I landed the left hook, [it was] an unreal experience.”

The win over Pulver was quite a coming of age for the 22-year-old, considering Lauzon’s high school didn’t have a wrestling team to groom him for the intensity of MMA. However, with professional wrestling at the peak of its popularity, he and his friends would often test each other’s physical limits on their own time.

As fate would have it, during a high school assembly Lauzon’s soon-to-be trainer Joe Pomfret conducted a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu demonstration. Joe was instantly hooked, and started training shortly after, participating in his first professional fight just two weeks after his 18th birthday.

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