If Ricardo Lamas wasn't on your radar coming into UFC on Fox 6, he certainly is now.
After an injury forced Erik Koch out of his previous title shot against Jose Aldo at UFC 153, many figured the featherweight tilt in Chicago to be Koch's platform to regain his former status in the division.
Unfortunately for the 24-year-old, Lamas had an agenda of his own.
The 30-year-old Chicago native dismantled the former No. 1 contender in brutal fashion as he pounded out a second-round TKO victory. The win over Koch makes it four in a row for "The Bully," who now finds himself within striking distance of a long-awaited title opportunity.
When asked if Lamas would get the winner of next weekend's championship showdown between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar in Las Vegas, UFC president Dana White wasn't ready to make the commitment.
Nevertheless, Lamas believes he's earned the right to compete for the featherweight crown and feels the victory over Koch strengthened his case.
"I definitely feel I made a statement in this fight," Lamas told Bleacher Report. "Erik Koch is a top contender in the 145-pound division and was supposed to fight for the title. This is the second guy in a row I've beaten who was supposed to have a title shot, and I believe this was another big win for me.
"I think at this point, I've earned a title shot more than anyone else in the division. I've defeated two top guys in a row and I don't know what else I have to do. As I said earlier, both Koch and Hioki were supposed to fight for the title and I beat them."
Leading up to the fight, the biggest question surrounding the matchup was how Koch would deal with the wrestle-heavy attack Lamas brings to the cage. It is an area the Duke Roufus-trained fighter has struggled with in the past and was the dominant factor in his loss to Chad Mendes at WEC 47.
Despite Koch fending off his initial attempts in the opening minutes of the fight, Lamas was able to score a takedown late in the first round.
When the action hit the canvas again in the second frame, Lamas turned up the intensity. After softening Koch up with a steady dose of ground-and-pound, the former NCAA Division lll wrestling standout began to rain down a series of brutal elbows that opened a gash on Koch's face and brought an end to the fight.
"After the first elbow I saw the blood start to gush out," Lamas said. "Koch is the type of opponent where you don't want to let him back up and give him another chance because he's dangerous at all times. As soon as I saw the chance to finish the fight, I knew I had to turn it up and do it.
"I kind of went back to the old way I used to fight. I came from a wrestling background and in this fight I wanted to use what got me here. I have very good control when I get on top of someone and you are not getting up without getting hurt."
Getting a win over a top-level competitor at a high-profile event was the perfect scenario for Lamas' campaign for title contention. That being said, the thrill of victory was amplified by the fact it took place in front of his hometown crowd.
Saturday night was the first time Lamas had competed in Chicago since 2008, and the lively crowd made a great night in the cage all the more memorable.
"It was awesome, man," Lamas said. "The energy the crowd was giving off was amazing...especially when Bruce Buffer was introducing us. They went crazy when Buffer said my name and that pumped me up.
"I couldn't be more grateful to be from Chicago. I couldn't be more grateful for the fans and my friends and family who were there to support me. It was an awesome feeling to fight in front of my hometown crowd."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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