Before his crowd-thrilling first-round TKO victory Saturday night UFC lightweight Joe Lauzon (28-15) told Yahoo Sports that “there would be worse ways to go out than fighting at home in the Boston Garden and winning.” After watching him do just that one must wonder if there could possibly be a better one.
Lauzon has fought in the big leagues since September of 2006, just a couple months after graduating college. Up until recently, the Massachusetts native was unsure if he’d ever fight again following three-straight losses.
After sitting out of competition for a year-and-a-half and making changes to his training Lauzon decided to return to the cage near home in Boston, and took on the much younger, and streaking, Jonathan Pearce. The result, for Lauzon, was seemingly perfect.
He brought the Boston crowd to their feet before the fight began with his mere presence, and then prompted them to roar in approval as he finished it, quickly. The fight was fast, violent and technical – a true Joe Lauzon affair.
Lauzon beat his younger foe and in so doing denied a narrative reversal of his own UFC debut back in 2006 when he upset former world champion Jens Pulver. He also made more history, and established himself as an all-time great.
The moment clearly was not lost on Lauzon, who appeared to fight back tears of joy as the crowd welcomed him into the Octagon for possibly the final time. Lauzon always fights with energy and shows jubilant emotion in victory, but this looked different. The fighter’s face looked reflective and nearly overcome with joy, aware of the moment and the years behind him that made it so significant.
This type of reflection right before battle can rattle even experienced fighters. Lauzon rode the wave, however, and did what he has always done best – took some punches before doling out bigger ones of his own, dragging his opponent to the ground, and finishing them there with his world-class jiu-jitsu.
The cerebral 35-year-old needlessly criticized himself for being so emotional, afterward, but also said what he had just demonstrated. “This is my house,” he yelled into the microphone.
Even if he retires, now, Lauzon’s career is already a Hall of Fame-worthy one. Put simply, Lauzon is at once one of the most winning, durable, and exciting fighters in UFC history.
Fighting in what has long been perhaps the most talent-rich divisions in the sport of MMA, Lauzon’s list of elite vanquished foes and record-breaking statistics speak for themselves.
Lauzon has the third most UFC lightweight appearances in history and is fourth on the all-time UFC lightweight wins ranking. He’s won the second most fight night bonuses in the promotion’s history, has the second most wins by way of submission in the 155lbs class, all-time, and has more wins by stoppage than any other lightweight in UFC history.
The video game geek who began his UFC career by balancing it with a full-time IT job turned himself into perhaps the most prolific finisher in the sport’s history. Overall, 26 of Lauzon’s 28 career wins have come by way of stoppage.
Lauzon has beaten his idols, outlasted many of his peers, and produced more wins at the highest level than even many world champions have managed to. His most recent win couldn’t have come at a more dramatic moment or played out in a more satisfying way for his fans.
Few fighters get to end their careers on their own happy and successful terms. Lauzon can do just that, now, if he decides to retire.
Could the cheers possibly get louder than they were Saturday night? Could the stakes ever get larger?
Could another win ever be so clean and dominant, and have come in front of so many friends and family? Probably not.
Lauzon’s academy appears to be booming, and many of New England’s other top fighters call him “coach.” He’s got the family and the second career well underway already, and it’s unlikely he’ll ever leave the training mats.
The always difficult transition from soldier to civilian is there waiting for Lauzon if he wants it. Whatever he decides, this much is clear: After 17 years and 43 fights, Lauzon has nothing more to prove, even though he clearly has plenty left to give.
ore from Yahoo Sports: