Francis Carmont, a training partner of welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, who defends his title against interim champ Carlos Condit atop the card, is soaring on an 8-fight win streak, 3 of which have transpired in the Octagon. He'll look to extend that roll against "Filthy" Tom Lawlor on the main card of UFC 154 in Montreal, Canada.
Francis Carmont (19-7), who spent much of his career as a light-heavyweight, seems to have found a home in the middleweight division. Squeezing his tall (6'3") and broad-shouldered physique into 185-pound proportions has increased Carmont's effectiveness as a well-rounded fighter -- he's fully capable on the feet, in the clinch and with takedowns and submission grappling. His length gives him a few more striking options, as he can play the range-striking game with long, straight punches or snapping front kicks, and his height and strength has been a formidable combination in the clinch, where he imposes his will with daunting head control.
Carmont's finishing ratio of 10 submission wins and 6 TKOs reflects his diversity. He made his Octagon debut against Chris Camozzi and turned the tide in the 2nd round with a monster slam, solid ground-and-pound and effective in-fighting to notch the decision. Magnus Cedenblad was a handful for Carmont in the 1st round of his sophomore outing, as the Swede was able to reverse an early takedown and put Carmont down before slipping around to back control while fishing for a a choke. Carmont persevered well and finished Cedenblad in the 2nd with a rear-naked choke; a result he would duplicate against Karlos Vemola at UFC on Fuel TV 4 though, again, Carmont struggled with Vemola's strength and wrestling in the opening frame.
Tom Lawlor (8-4) has been somewhat of an enigma. Basically another face in the light-heavyweight crowd on TUF 8 (he was TKO'd by eventual winner Ryan Bader), Lawlor dropped to middleweight after the show and surprised folks with a pair of definitive wins (Kyle Kingsbury by decision, C.B. Dollaway by 1st-round D'arce choke). Lawlor was then elevated to a match with highly respected D1 wrestler Aaron Simpson -- despite dropping a highly debatable and contentious split decision, the gutsy performance still managed to increase Lawlor's stock and future potential.
Since that point, Lawlor split his next 4 with alternating losses and wins and his momentum has sputtered. He tapped to a rear-naked choke from conniving submissionist Joe Doerksen, he brawled his way to a unanimous nod over Patrick Cote, fell into another D'arce choke from phenom Chris Weidman but rebounded with a much needed knockout of Jason MacDonald in his last showing.
Carmont and Lawlor have fairly similar tactics: they're hefty middleweights who thrive when they're able to dictate the action with physicality. The vast majority of their fights have taken place in close-quarters combat; either at toe-to-toe range on the feet, in the clinch or in grappling exchanges.
Carmont is rock-solid across the board but will enjoy a significant height (6'3" vs. 5'11") and reach (78" vs. 74") advantage and has the better distance-striking arsenal. Lawlor appears to be the more effective wrestler and he's a nightmare in down-and-dirty brawl with short, crunching lefts and uppercuts. They both have a dynamic in-fighting arsenal and affect overbearing pressure and control in tie-ups, yet also represent a triple threat in the clinch with the ability to strike, latch on submission attempts or play the takedown game.
Lawlor might seem more susceptible to submissions but the fighters that tapped him (Weidman, Doerksen) are among the top-echelon of submission threats in the entire weight class. 3 of Carmont's 7 losses came by way of submission, and against competition that doesn't compare to Lawlor's -- though 2 were incurred within his first 6 fights (along with another defeat, a 1st-round TKO, to former TUFer Ross Pointon).
This should be a resounding collision between big, strong, manhandling middleweights and, in a primal, "King of the Jungle" sense, I think both will be eager to tangle up early and find out who'll be able to push the other around. That microscopic contest alone makes this a compelling bout. Carmont's height will be pivotal in the clinch, which transmits to a lot of leverage with the single or double collar tie.
Both have to be extremely cautious when dropping levels at contact range, as either are known for countering takedown attempts with submissions: Carmont likes to lean over and get the kimura grip, which pretty much facilitated his win over Vemola, and both have a knack for attacking with chokes from the front headlock. Lawlor is particularly adept at planting stiff uppercuts when his opponent lowers their head to attack his waist.
Carmont will be a little smoother from out on the fringe but Lawlor's short-range jackhammers give him the edge in close quarters. Despite being shorter, I feel Lawlor will be the better wrestler, especially considering that Cedenblad and Vemola put Carmont on his back. Based strictly on some of the submissions he's landed in the past (armbars and and an ankle lock), Carmont appears to be the more talented guard player and Lawlor has to watch out for his creativity in transitions.
The betting lines have Carmont well ahead in the range of -250 to -300, which I suppose I understand. I still think that's too steep and largely influenced by his recent surge, but his level of competition -- especially when contrasted to Lawlor's -- leaves a little to be desired. I'm leaning toward Lawlor here in a close one.
My Prediction: Tom Lawlor by decision.