Though Maurico "Shogun" Rua and Brandon "The Truth" Vera take center stage this Saturday at UFC on Fox 4, it is Jamie Varner and Joe Lauzon that will keep the MMA world talking after Saturday night is said and done.
Lauzon, the submission specialist from East Bridgewater, Mass., is regarded as one of the lightweight division's most notable finishers, having gone the distance only once in his whole career. His style has earned him respect in some MMA circles, as he has always fought with a "get a finish or get finished" attitude, and it has gotten him seven UFC fight bonuses thus far, including four "Submission of the Night" bonuses.
In addition to this attitude, "J-Lau" is also known for an aggressive Jiu-Jitsu game that has spelled doom for the likes of Melvin Guillard and Jeremy Stephens. Despite his submission prowess, however, Lauzon also possesses some underrated knockout power, which led the Bridgewater native to a victory against the legendary former UFC lightweight champion "Lil' Evil" Jens Pulver.
Varner, on the other hand, is a former WEC lightweight champion who's made a comeback of sorts. After losing to Dakota Cochrane and flirting with retirement, Varner would go on to defeat Nate Jolly and Drew Fickett before scoring an "Upset of 2012" candidate in the form of his first-round TKO victory over previously-undefeated Edson Barboza.
After applying the right amount of pressure on Barboza and securing the TKO finish, Varner, now 4-1 in his last five fights, fills in for an injured Terry Etim to face Lauzon.
Say whatever you wish about Varner and Lauzon, the latter of whom suffered a knockout defeat to Anthony Pettis in Saitama, Japan at UFC 144, but let's not ignore the stylistic bout that makes this a lock for "Fight of The Night."
Lauzon is the type of fighter that fans like seeing on cards because of what he can do with his grappling, which he couples in with his takedowns in order to provide a difficult fight for any opponent he faces inside the Octagon. Against the right opponents, his striking can also present an issue for his foes, which in turn causes many to label his striking and knockout powers as underrated.
However, for all Lauzon can do on the ground, Varner presents a well-rounded skill-set, as well as an iron chin and a lion's heart.
What this means is that Varner has the type of aggressive offense needed to expose Lauzon's susceptibility to a well-timed onslaught of strikes, and he also presents the takedown defense needed to neutralize Lauzon's ground game and force Lauzon to fight in ways he wouldn't normally fight, but above all else, he will not go down without a fight, regardless of whom he faces.
The only question for Varner is whether he'd have an answer for Lauzon's grappling in the event that Lauzon attempted a standing hold or a flying submission, a la Benson Henderson or Shinya Aoki, but Lauzon does not possess the high-level grappling or strength needed to pull either off.
It sparks an interest, however, to witness the events that unfold in this lightweight affair, as the 155-pound division remains one of the UFC's most stacked and most unpredictable, meaning that anyone could prove their case towards title contention at any time with few disagreements to the contrary.
Not only is the division stacked, but this bout is also a true case of a perennial top lightweight and fan-favorite going up against a former world champion and a fighter on something of the comeback trail after nearly retiring about one year ago. That both men know how to turn in a bout with serious fireworks only adds to the intrigue that all but locks this bout in for a fight bonus before it goes live.
The best part about it? Neither man is on the marquee as the event's headliner, and it's perhaps that irony that will make it that much sweeter when these two become the talk of the town after what promises (and needs) to be a scintillating night of fights this Saturday in LA's Staples Center at UFC on Fox 4: Shogun vs. Vera.