Mac Danzig vs. Joe Lauzon -- Lightweight bout
Battle-scarred lightweights Mac Danzig (21-11) and Joe Lauzon (22-9) square off in a must-win affair, as both will enter the cage on a two-fight slide and having dropped three of their last four turns.For Lauzon: the brash and fearless submissionist tapped out Jamie Varner (triangle choke) amidst losses in the form of back-to-back decisions (Jim Miller, Michael Johnson) and a head-kick KO dealt by newly minted champ Anthony Pettis. Following a perilous three-fight skid in 2008-2009 (Clay Guida, Josh Neer, Jim Miller), Danzig has alternated wins and losses -- Justin Buccholz (decision win), Matt Wiman (submission loss), Joe Stevenson (KO win), Wiman again (decision loss), Efrain Escudero (decision win) -- leading up to his recent string of consecutive defeats (Takanori Gomi by split decision, Melvin Guillard by KO).
At the core, Wiman and Lauzon are similar in that they present a formidable threat with striking and submission grappling while their wrestling prowess is far from a weakness, but not as fearsome. They differ strongly in mentality, however, as Danzig is a cerebral and laudably composed tactician and Lauzon is an unbridled and risk-taking live-wire. Lauzon's inimitable aggression has been a double-edged sword: it's earned him an extensive collection of Fight/Sub/Knockout of the Night bonuses (an unfathomable total of 11 in his 15 UFC outings) and widespread fan respect, yet it was also the red-handed culprit in the bulk of his career defeats.
As an aside, for those who've bitterly damned safe strategies and ho-hum performances while calling for fighters to take risks, pursue the finish at all costs or die trying ... look no farther than J-Lau.
The task of capitalizing on Lauzon's bloodthirsty bravado requires a high level of experience, technical diversity and calculating know-how, all of which aptly describe Danzig's most prized attributes. The 33-year-old vet's lack of highlight-reel finishes and resonant victories have kept him out of the premiere spotlight but Danzig is one of the smartest and most underrated technicians in the lightweight class, especially in the realms of striking and sub-grappling. While his extremely uncharacteristic submission loss to Neer may beg to differ, this is also the only guy to submit longtime BJJ black belt Mark Bocek. Key components to Danzig's submission acumen are his feisty scrambling, guard passing and transition game, which, when all cylinders are firing, makes for a disheartening concoction of positional savvy.
Despite his bulletproof fundamentals on the feet and the mat, Danzig does nothing awe-inspiring nor remarkable. He comes off as an average, mid-to-low power kickboxer (5 career T/KO's, 1 in the UFC) even though his command of more-than-basic fundamentals is prevalent. Don't expect jaw-crushing jackhammers, flying knees or spinning shit of any design from Danzig, but his potential to methodically dismantle most lightweights -- especially those with known voids in their arsenal -- remains fully intact.
I'm still searching for some handy, two- or three-word catchphrase to portray match ups like this, but Danzig will be the reliable and consistent force, applying steady and intelligent pressure or counter-fighting, while Lauzon will quite literally engage Danzig like his ass is on fire or his jock strap has been electrically charged. Though, again, it embodies Lauzon at both his best and his worst, the Massachusetts native morphs into a loppy-eared maelstrom of violence, by way of either his erratically looping assembly of home-run punches or his half-technical/half-demented submission voracity. In plain terms, and at any moment, erupting into a flying scissors submission attempt, uncorking a blistering volley of fight-ending haymakers or somersaulting after an unorthodox takedown are all viable endeavors to expect from Lauzon -- especially in the first round-and-a-half.
The approach is admirably treacherous, and Lauzon either wins big or loses big. Lauzon's inner Dr. Jekyll gives him an edge in punching power and, though by a narrow margin, probably in the wrestling department as well, which will be pivotal in compensating for Danzig's rock-solid technique and Fight I.Q. Lauzon's extra inch or two of size is a noteworthy mention and his electric, balls-to-the-wall style certainly favors him if the fight goes to a decision.
I assess these two of very comparable skill in the three main categories of combat (striking, submissions, wrestling/clinching), yet their divergent mentalities dictate success. They present a comparable striking threat, but it's Danzig's on-the-fly adjustments and technical breadth versus Lauzon's raw power and brutality; they're of a similar status as wrestlers and grapplers, but Danzig will rely on his smarts to punish Lauzon for being over-aggressive while Lauzon will look to overwhelm Danzig with an outpouring of unpredictable offense.
The final variables that will influence this pseudo clash of styles is seamless phase-shifting and simple durability, both of which I feel favor Danzig. Remarkably, Lauzon is yet to win a professional MMA contest by decision (18 subs, 4 TKO's) and Danzig is deceivingly difficult to put away (7 decision losses with two apiece via TKO/sub). If there was a line graph to depict the longevity of Lauzon's unquenchable wrath, it would slope off at a near 90-degree angle about halfway through the second round, which is logically attributed to the way he crams 15 minutes of energy and offense into an explosive 5-8 minutes of visceral carnage.
In my opinion, the calculating and durable Danzig should be able to persevere through Lauzon's early and outrageous effervescence much better than Lauzon will with Danzig in the later rounds, which is when Lauzon's inner Dr. Jekyll starts to sputter out and is inevitably replaced by the more even-keeled, cardio-deficient and agreeable Mr. Hyde.
My Prediction: Mac Danzig by decision.