Joe LauzonThe UFC’s promotional team loves it when they have some bad blood to help promote one of their cards. UFC 94 had pre-fight smack talk between Clay Guida and Nate Diaz while UFC 92 featured plenty of hostility between Quinton Jackson and Wanderlei Silva. At first it seemed as though UFC Fight Night 17, which takes place Saturday in Tampa, was going to be a card filled with exciting fights from up and coming fighters but one that was void of any pre-fight animosity. However, thanks to a popular online mixed martial arts forum, the Underground, UFN 17 has suddenly developed a storyline of ill will in its main event.

Years ago, many top fighters used to post on the Underground but eventually internet tough guys started disrespecting the fighters and slowly the number of professional fighters who posted dwindled. Hermes Franca and Joe Lauzon are two fighters who have continued to post on the Underground, taking the odd negative comment in good-humored stride. However, this time it’s not the keyboard warriors stirring up the pot; it is Franca and Lauzon who have been dishing out the trash talk in their exchanges with each other on the forum.

It all started last week when Franca went on the Underground to break the news to his fans that he had torn the ACL on his right knee and was not going to be able to fight. In response to Franca’s post, Lauzon posted a note saying:

“Very sorry to hear. I was looking forward to it… Good luck with the recovery. I was hoping we could beat each other up… ideally me beating you up a little bit more… but a fight either way. Best of luck.”

What started as a friendly conversation erupted into a feud when Franca replied to Lauzon with:

“lol Joe, u have no idea how excited I was to fight against you, especially when I saw your brother fighting, man he sucks uhauahuahauha!!!!!! Next time for sure, maybe we can fight like kimbo, in the back yard just to see what is up!!!!! Hey dan L. no offense!!!!”

Joe’s brother is Dan Lauzon, a great fighter in his own right who received some criticism recently for his winning performance against Bobby Green at Affliction “Day of Reckoning.” Anyone who follows the Lauzon brothers knows they are serious competitors who don’t take disrespect lightly. Franca may have been joking, as he later tried to claim, but it’s hard to convey that type of joking on the Internet and Lauzon took the insult against his brother seriously and replied by posting:

“Hey Hermes, make sure you make it to your AA meetings. Go fuck yourself. Had a lot of respect for you before this. No offense.”

The DUI arrest in early November 2008 that Lauzon is referring to by bringing up AA meetings is not the first time Franca has been involved in controversy. In 2007, Franca tested positive for steroids after losing to Sean Sherk by unanimous decision in a bout for the UFC Lightweight Championship. Franca’s last fight, against his former friend and training partner Marcus Aurelio, was also a fight that was filled with bad blood after the two had a falling out. When the UFC replaced Hermes Franca with Jeremy Stephens for UFN 17, the bad blood between Franca and Lauzon continued on the Underground. Franca and Stephens are friends, and Franca told Lauzon that Stephens had a knockout coming his way. Lauzon replied by saying:

“Hermes, I will do my talking when I fight…Can you say the same?”

It’s that kind of self-assuredness that makes Lauzon such an exciting fighter. Going into Saturday’s fight, Lauzon, who’s only 24 years old, holds a 17-4 record, with thirteen of his wins coming by submission. Lauzon also carries some power in his punches, with TKO victories over Jens Pulver and Kyle Bradley. Stephens, who’s two years younger than Lauzon, also has some power in his hands. A brutal uppercut knockout against Rafael dos Anjos earned Stephens knockout of the night honors in his last fight at UFC 91 and he also holds a TKO victory over Lauzon’s The Ultimate Fighter cast mate, Cole Miller. In fact, of Stephens’ 16 victories, 12 have been by knockout.

A win over Stephens could put Lauzon back in title contention—a run that was cut short by Kenny Florian—while a win over Lauzon would establish Stephens as a dangerous up and comer and might earn him another main card spot for his next fight. Although Stephens has submission skills, he’s got to keep this fight standing to have any chance of climbing higher up the stacked UFC lightweight ladder. Lauzon’s got top notch grappling skills so expect to see him try and get the fight to the ground early and rip off one of Stephens’ limbs.

This is a great stylistic match up that his been made even more interesting due to all the unexpected pre-fight trash talk between Franca and Lauzon. I would bet that the trash talk is done since Lauzon has made it known he likes to do his talking in the cage but there will definitely be some lingering bad blood which could make for fireworks Saturday night when Lauzon steps in the cage against Franca’s “boy”, Stephens.