<
>

Careful what you wish for, Mr. Pettis

10/24/2011

Going back to the Jens Pulver bout five years ago at UFC 63, Joe Lauzon has been a human bull’s-eye for name brand lightweights in need of a fight.

Last time it was Melvin Guillard, who wanted to stay busy while the title picture sorted itself out. It took Lauzon 47 seconds to explain why that was a mistake.

Now it’s Anthony Pettis, another antsy fighter, who kept busy despite establishing himself as the clear No. 1 contender while Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard held the division hostage.

We all saw what happened there. Clay Guida took all those Duke Roufusian dynamics and ground them into a fine powder -- so much so that Pettis returned against Jeremy Stephens with an added wrinkle in his game (wrestling). He won the fight through toil, bumming out frill seekers the way that Miguel Torres did by using his reach and jab in decisioning the shorter Antonio Banuelos.

That’s the rub against being a fighter where everyone has grown to expect the unexpected -- the only thing that can possibly feel surprising is disappointment.

And it’s one of the reasons why Pettis now casts an eye towards Lauzon, who rarely sees finish lines. In 27 pro fights, Lauzon has went to the judges' scorecards once, and that was against Sam Stout at UFC 108 while still not fully recovered from ACL surgery (he lost). Lauzon has taken home nine end of the night bonuses; hitching on to a fight against him means potential for a big payday. After two dull bouts (by inflated standards), Pettis looks at Lauzon and sees electricity. He sees a comer that he can convert into a highlight reel victory.

Best of all, he sees meshing schedules for February.

Yet, it’s a bit of trickery what Lauzon does. He’s a cusp top-10 lightweight coming off a big win who doesn’t do any one thing particularly well; he can’t box, can’t wrestle, and his jiu-jitsu is best described as quite a bit better than decent. He’s not a polished anything. As such, he can’t help but be the most enticing thing on the menu to ravenous appetites.

There’s always somebody casting their druthers his way.

But the danger in handpicking Lauzon is that all those mediocre elements add up to something very hard to deal with, as he proved against Pulver in 2006, and recently against Guillard at UFC 136. He’ll use hodgepodge to hurt you, then turn into an incubus to carry the thing through. Nobody pounces quicker that Lauzon, even if he says that moment always feels like it’s in agonizingly slow motion. Pettis may not have the same vulnerability to submissions that Guillard does, but -- right into Lauzon’s wheelhouse -- seems to have similar notions. It’s either a perfect set-up for a spike for Pettis, or (yet another) perfect trap.

Either way, that’s a good fight.

And judging from how eagerly Lauzon accepted the challenge, he thinks so too.