Joe Lauzon: Gray Maynard’s Not “The Best Finisher”, Hopes Fight Determines #1 Contender

UFC lightweight Joe Lauzon’s nickname may be “J-Lau” but he should consider changing it to “The Finisher”. If you look at Lauzon’s MMA record (22-7, MMA 9-4, UFC), he’s never had any fight he’s won ever go to decision. On December 29th when he comes to Las Vegas to face off against former Ultimate Fighter season 5 teammate, Gray Maynard (11-1-1 draw, 1 NC, MMA) at UFC 155, make no mistake, Lauzon will be in the hunt for his 23rd finish.

Since entering the UFC with a knockout win over Jens Pulver at UFC 63, Lauzon’s gone on to submit seven other UFC fighters. But even after finishing nine UFC lightweights, it doesn’t mean that he’s underestimating anything about Maynard. Joe said Gray is just formidable as any opponent he’s had to face.

“I like to think that about every fight because they present different challenges, there’s something about it that’s really tough. I wouldn’t keep training if I didn’t feel like I wasn’t fighting better and better guys all the time. Gray presents all kinds of issues and difficulties and things to deal with, but I’m very comfortable and very confident with my ability to gameplan and get ready for whoever we’re going to fight,” Lauzon told MMA Fight Corner on Tuesday night.

Along with his nine finishes in the UFC, Lauzon has also accumulated the 2nd most bonuses of all time in the organization with eleven. Only UFC middleweight champion, Anderson Silva, has more as he holds twelve “Fight Night” bonuses. In Lauzon’s last fight against Jamie Varner at UFC on FOX 4, he received two bonuses for his 3rd round triangle choke. He double dipped earning  “Fight of the Night” and “Submission of the Night”. With the extra dough, Lauzon bought a Ghostbuster’s movie replica proton pack and maybe with the other, he bought Thor’s Hammer; but despite the extra rewards, that’s not what motivates him to execute finishing moves inside the Octagon.

“The money’s really nice, but it’s really not the driving factor behind it. The basing is that’s just how I like to fight, I like to go out there and submit guys, I like to go out there and attack. Sometimes I’m a little over-aggressive and it leads to cardio issues and things like that, but I try to have the kind of fights that I want to watch. And I want to watch guys that are going out and being aggressive and attacking, and not guys that are trying to edge out a decision,” Lauzon said. “It’s not that I’m 100 percent thinking ‘Oh I’m just thinking about that money’. I’m thinking that if I’m going to have a fight and I’m going to dedicate months of my life to getting ready for 15 minutes, I’m going have fun, I’m going to be in shape and I’m gonna go out there and I’m gonna attack. And I’m gonna know one way or the other if I’m the better guy or not the better guy. I’d hate to go out there and try to just win and just coast to a decision. It’s not fulfilling to me.”

While that sentiment echoes in the hearts of fans that want a good show, Lauzon will fight Maynard who has been through three wars with former UFC lightweight champion, Frankie Edgar. Lauzon is preparing for Gray by analyzing as much tape as possible and absorbing what his tendencies are in fights. He added that no matter how hard fighters try to become more well-rounded and bring new skills into the fight, once they’re tired, they revert to the old habits. When asked what he sees as Gray’s strengths, Lauzon said:

“I don’t think there’s anything super specific. I think if you look at his skill set, I don’t think he’s the best finisher. He hurt Frankie really bad – twice, and he wasn’t able to finish him. I think that in all his fights in the UFC he’s finished one guy. I’m sure he’s trying to finish guys, but he just doesn’t happen to be a great finisher. He’s a guy that always has good cardio, he’s always pushing to the end of the fight, tons of heart, tons of drive, incredibly strong, doesn’t kick a whole lot, you know, I’m sure he’s like everyone else he’s constantly trying to round everything out. But basically, if I had to describe him as a fighter, you’d say a boxer and wrestler which is a lot like Jamie Varner who I just fought. But I feel like Varner had the better boxing, Gray has the better wrestling, but both try to stand. It’s very, very similar to the Varner fight I think.”

What Lauzon does know is how much strength Gray derives from his wrestling base. “Gray’s going to be by far the best wrestler I fought,” Lauzon admitted. He then added that he’s always done well against wrestlers by taking them out of their element and getting them into positions they don’t want to be in on the ground.  For this fight, Lauzon believes his own wrestling is much improved.

“I think that my wrestling’s gotten a lot better. My standup has gotten a lot better, so I think those are going to definitely complement my jiu jitsu with dealing Gray. But it’s just another fight. I feel like there’s definitely some things that Gray does very, very well. But like I said before, I don’t think finishing is one of them. I think he’s gonna be tough. I think he’s going to be there for the whole 15 minutes. He’s going to be heavy. I think he’s going to be tough to sweep, he’s going to be tough to submit, but I just gotta to push the pace and I gotta get him to make a mistake and catch him with something.”

But is it just another fight?  With a much anticipated showdown between Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis most likely not happening until possibly late January 2013, the possibility that this fight propels the winner’s status to being a top contender in the 155 pound division increases.

“I definitely think it puts me near the top. Is this like definitely a number one contender fight? I don’t know. It could, if you look at it that way. I don’t think anything’s going to be set in stone. I would love to fight for the title. That’s what everyone wants. Every single guy in the UFC that’s out there, they want to get that belt, they want to get that title of their weight class. That would be awesome,” Lauzon said of the possible opportunity. “This could definitely be looked at as a number one contender fight for sure.”

If Pettis-Cerrone gets signed, that would most likely be the fight that can determine the next #1 contender. But, since Pettis will be out for awhile with his staph infection, could the winner of Lauzon and Maynard become the lightweight contender fight?

“I felt like Cowboy and Pettis would be the next ones to fight for the title, but now that’s kind of hanging in the air. And I think those guys definitely want to fight each other, Cowboy he’ll fight whoever, but I know he wants to get after Pettis too. So I don’t know how that’ll all going to shake out.”

On December 29, Lauzon vs Maynard will be on the main card of UFC 155 that will be held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV, Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez will fight in a rematch for the UFC heavyweight title. Chris Leben will return to the Octagon. Forrest Griffin and Phil Davis will square off and four top middleweights will clash in addition to Lauzon’s fight. No matter what, the end of the year UFC card always delivers action and Lauzon’s just pumped to be a part of it.

“I’m super proud that when they’re having their big year end show that I’m one of the guys that they want to go out represent and put on a good show. Everyone talks about the end of the year and it being the biggest show of the year, and that they have that kind of faith in me that I’m one of the guys they want for that main card, it’s awesome. And the big implications for the fight, because if it is a number one contender fight, or at least getting me very close to the top, like everything, it’d be a great way to cap off the end of the year.”

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