Joe Lauzon (22-8 MMA, 9-5 UFC) is one of, if not the most exciting fighter in the UFC. Earning himself six submission of the night honors, five fight of the night honors, one knockout of the night honors (making him tied with Anderson Silva for post-fight bonus awards), and one fight of the year honors, if you are looking for the safest bet for fight of the night – this is probably it. Lauzon brings a very well-rounded and high action approach to MMA, one that his UFC Fight Night 26 opponent Michael Johnson (12-8 MMA, 4-4 UFC) has yet to encounter. While he excels on the ground and has grappling that is exciting to watch, Lauzon also loves to brawl it out with his opponents despite not being the best striker, which may give Johnson an opening for victory if he is able to keep at a range and pick Lauzon apart.
Coming off of two losses in a row, Blackzilian fighter Michael Johnson is battling for relevance in the UFC and possibly for his career within the promotion. On multiple occasions, Johnson tried out for The Ultimate Fighter but was denied entry twice before finally making it onto the twelfth season of the show where he made it to the finals but fell short against Jonathan Brookins and lost a decision. Since then he has gone 4-3 in the promotion with wins over Danny Castillo and Shane Roller. Lauzon is a huge step up for Johnson and this fight will be a determining factor as to whether or not Johnson has what it takes to fight inside the UFC.
Michael Johnson has often been labelled a sprawl-and-brawl type fighter where Lauzon has been looked at as more of a submission fighter, tying the record for submission victories in the lightweight division. But that does not mean that Lauzon will avoid a slug fest. While jiu jitsu fighters have had hard time with athletic sprawl-and-brawl fighters, all we have to do is look at Lauzon’s fight with Melvin Guillard to see what Lauzon is capable of against that style of fighter (he submitted Guillard in the first round.) Look for Johnson to strike from the fringe, avoiding Lauzon from closing the distance on him. When Johnson is put on his back, it is literally as though he is lost. If the fight gets to the ground it will be a quick finish by Lauzon.
Prediction: Joe Lauzon via submission (rear naked choke) in round 2.
While Lauzon may not have a striking advantage, his ability to draw his opponents into a brawl is top-notch and this will catch Johnson off guard as he has yet to face a fighter like Lauzon. There is nothing left to surprise Lauzon inside the octagon and having already defeated a better version of Johnson in Melvin Guillard, Lauzon will be comfortable anywhere the fight goes. Johnson, on the other hand, will not be able to keep up with the diverse fighting style of Lauzon and will find himself on the mat where he will more than likely give up his back as a last-ditch effort resulting in Lauzon sinking in a rear naked choke in the second round.