Joe Lauzon proved a capable headliner his second time out. Lauzon submitted Jeremy Stephens with a slick armbar at 4:43 into the second round of their lightweight main event bout at UFC Fight Night 17 on Saturday at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa, Fla.
Stephens (14-4), who had replaced trainer Hermes Franca after the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt tore the anterior crucial ligament in his right knee less than two weeks out, was deemed a much larger threat to Lauzon on his feet, although he never really got the opportunity to show it.
Lauzon, 24, stifled the hard-hitting Stephens with two unconventional leglock drops to the canvas, then controlled the striker with superior positioning at practically every turn of the mostly grounded contest.
The Bridgewater, Mass., native went for two key armbar attempts from mount in the first and second rounds. On the first try, Stephens negotiated free and rained down heavy leather, but Lauzon weathered the onslaught.
Lauzon's second stab didn't fail though. After absorbing a Stephens' elbow that opened a gash along his hairline, Lauzon reversed and wasted little time mounting his foe's chest and pitching off the side with the appendage again. This time, Lauzon rolled with Stephens to keep the hold intact for the finish.
The performance proved much more impressive than Lauzon's ill-fated bout with No. 1 lightweight contender Kenny Florian 10 months ago.
"I knew we were getting close to the end of the round so I was trying, trying, trying," said Lauzon, who moves up to 18-4 with five Octagon victories in tow. "When I fought Kenny, I was a little bit star-struck by the whole thing. It felt way better being in the main event this time. [The experience] helped me a ton."
Velasquez continues to progress
As expected, Cain Velasquez was victorious over promotional newcomer Denis Stojnic with a TKO stoppage from strikes 2:34 into the second round, though the finish was underwhelming in light of the heavyweight's hype going into his fifth career fight.
Viewers got a taste of things to come as Velasquez pinned the tough, but slow-to-respond Dutchman against the fence early and unloaded with punches and knees from the Thai plum. Though Stojnic's chin showed a sturdy resolve, his return fire was too far and in-between to ever put Velasquez in jeopardy.
Stojnic (5-2) found his back against the wall quickly again in the second round, and began to swing for the fences. Velasquez, 26, used the opening to ride Stojnic to the mat and easily wiggled free from a guillotine choke attempt, then softened Stojnic with punches in side control until the Dutchman turtled to find relief. When referee Jorge Ortiz saw no fight in Stojnic, he called it quits, much to Velasquez and the crowd's dismay.
"I could have finished him a lot better. I didn't, so I just have to try and relax out here. That's why I need more ring time," said Velasquez, who trains with the American Kickboxing Academy.
Neer dominates Danzig
The Des Moines, Iowa lightweight caught Danzig (18-6-1) with a right in the bout's first minute, but "The Ultimate Fighter 6" winner battled back nicely and found his timing with combinations, cutting Neer over his left eye in the ensuing melee.
Neer would not be denied, however. The fearless 25 year old snagged the armbar and tried to transition to an oma plata before Danzig slipped out to his feet.
Grounding Danzig again in the second set, Neer rained down elbows with bad intentions, but Danzig eventually maneuvered to top position. From his back, Neer latched on the fight-ending choke and never looked back.
"I felt like I got headbutted in the first round and that's why I was kind of mad because the ref didn't call it," said Neer. "I felt like I got headbutted and that's why my eye split open."
Neer (25-7-1), who rebounded publicly from a New Year's Eve run-in with authorities for driving while intoxicated and fleeing the scene of a hit-and-run, is now victorious in four of his last five outings.
A stiff right hook from Anthony Johnson signaled the beginning of the end for American Top Team's Luigi Fioravanti, who stumbled to the canvas with his aggressor in hot pursuit. Johnson coaxed out the stoppage with follow-up shots on a turtled Fioravanti at 4:39 in the first round of their welterweight tilt.
Johnson and Fioravanti traded outside leg kicks and the occasional punch for the first four minutes, but the former Marine couldn't seem to negotiate Johnson's favorable height and reach advantage.
Though another reputable victory for the uber-athletic 24-year-old, Johnson, a junior collegiate wrestling champion, was not satisfied with his efforts.
"I'm happy I got a win, but I could have done so much better," said Johnson, who improves to 7-2. "I came out sloppy, but I'll get better."
Miller, Pellegrino come up big in prelims
After getting blasted with a knee to start their tilt, Rosholt quickly found himself in danger as Miller (11-1, 1 NC) locked on a modified guillotine on the heels of a takedown attempt. Just 63 seconds into the battle of future stars, Rosholt (5-1), was handed his first career defeat as he submitted to the slick technique.
Miller is now 3-0 in the Octagon.
Having tasted Emerson's jab a few times in the first period, Pellegrino (13-4) struck from a different range in the second round, and was successful early with a well-executed punching combination. The fighters exchanged strikes on the feet and scrambled for position on the floor, where Pellegrino found an opening to secure a tapout-inducing rear-naked choke.
The loss for Emerson (8-7, 1 NC) was his first in four bouts for the promotion.
Grice, 9-2, dominated at the beginning of the bout with a flurry of punches and some vicious ground-and-pound. Showing an iron chin, Veach weathered the storm and connected with a crisp right hook that sent his opponent reeling to the canvas. Veach followed his fallen foe to the floor, where he put a stamp on his victory with follow-up punches until referee Troy Waugh saved Grice at 4:35 of Round 1.
Setting the tone early with a straight left that stunned Clementi (32-14-1), Tibau dominated the Team Voodoo lightweight on the floor before securing a fight-ending guillotine at 4:35 of the first. Tibau (16-6) ended a two-fight losing streak with the impressive win.
Catone (6-0) greeted Downey with an elbow in the opening frame that raised an alien-like bulge on the head of the Utah-based middleweight. Downey (10-4) pushed on despite his lumps, but was forced to call it quits after a keylock extended his arm at 1:15 of Round 2.
In the evening's opening bout, welterweight prospect Matt Riddle (2-0) outpointed ATT product Steve Bruno (12-5) en route to a win by unanimous decision. All three judges scored the contest 29-28 for the Arizona Combat Sports fighter.
Loretta Hunt covers MMA for Sherdog.com.