The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale’s main card features a well-matched contest between longtime veterans Evan Dunham and Joe “J-Lau” Lauzon. Both fighters are somewhere in the middle of the lightweight pecking order and are trying to put a winning streak together so that they can once again become relevant in the division. Lauzon quickly starched Takanori Gomi in July, while Dunham defeated Ross Person by decision in a snoozer of a fight a week after Lauzon’s victory. Joe Lauzon (25-10 MMA, 12-7 UFC, +170 underdog) The exciting and popular Lauzon enters the Octagon for the 20th time this Friday night, which is an extraordinary accomplishment in itself. The always game fighter is on a bit of resurgence over the last two years, as he has won three out of his four fights during that time. His sole blemish during that span was a loss to rising contender Al Iaquinta in January. Lauzon holds the record for most post-fight bonuses in UFC history with 13. Those are mainly from having the submission (6 times) or fight of the night (6 times). While he has not made it to the top-tier in the lightweight division, he does hold notable wins over Jeremy Stephens, Jens Pulver, Melvin Guillard, Jamie Varner, Michael Chiesa, and Takanori Gomi. The 31-year old brings it every time he enters the Octagon. Among his 12 UFC wins, 11 have come inside the distance (7 submissions and 4 knockouts). The Massachusetts native’s style revolves around his excellent submission game. While he is not a great wrestler by any means, he often finds ways to get the fight to the floor, either by getting trips in the clinch, catching kicks, or knocking his opponent down with a punch. Once on the mat Lauzon has a strong base, is an excellent passer and back taker, and has a lethal array of submissions both from top position and from his back. He has excellent chokes, armbars, leglocks, and sweeps. Most of his struggles have come against fighters that have better striking and can keep the fight on the feet, which negates his submission game. Conditioning can sometime be an issue for Lauzon, as he has run out of gas in a few fights. Lauzon is primarily a grappler, but he has secured many of his submissions after knocking his opponent down to the canvas first. While he is not a great striker by any means, he has decent power in hands that can change the course of a fight. Lauzon throws a decent jab, straight right, and a powerful left hook. He is not much of a kicker, but does nice work in the clinch with knees and elbows. Evan Dunham (16-6 MMA, 9-6 UFC, -200 favorite) Like Lauzon, Dunham is a longtime veteran of the UFC’s lightweight division. This will be his 16th contest in the division since he signed with the promotion in February of 2009. Dunham was once considered one of the top lightweight prospects in mixed martial arts, but he has never reached the heights that many believed he would. The Las Vegas native won his first four fights in the UFC, but lost his fifth fight to Sean Sherk in a fight that was widely considered a horrible decision. Dunham has not been able to rebound from that and at one point he lost four of five fights. However, several of those losses came to some of the best lightweights in the world, including current UFC Lightweight Champion Rafael dos Anjos, Donald Cerrone, Edson Barboza, and T.J. Grant, who are all elite fighters. Dunham has had a nice start to his 2015 campaign, as he enters this contest on a two fight win streak. He defeated Rodrigo Damm in January and Ross Pearson in July. Fighting out of a southpaw stance, the 33-year old is a high volume striker. He routinely throws three and four punch combinations that are often initiated with his jab or lead right hook. Dunham often throws his jab, straight left hand, and then will close with a right hook. Kicks to all levels are routinely utilized by the UFC veteran as well. One of the negative aspects of Dunham’s striking attack is his lack of power, as he just does not hit very hard. Six out of his nine UFC victories have come via decision. Defensively, he is not a great athlete and is prone to getting tagged by faster and more athletic fighters. Dunham was recently promoted to a black belt in Brazilian jit jitsu under Robert Drysdale. He really showed off his ground game in his latest outing against Ross Pearson. Dunham routinely timed Pearson’s strikes and entries and took him down with reactive double-legs. He had Pearson in a very tight armbar in the first round but Pearson was able to escape. While he is not a great wrestler by any means, he is definitely serviceable in that area. Dunham is also not above laying in his opponent’s guard and stalling to win rounds, as we saw in his last fight. Great conditioning is another key aspect of Dunham’s game. Thoughts This should be an exciting fight, as most Joe Lauzon fights are. Dunham will have the edge on the feet with his striking and volume, while Lauzon will have the edge in the submission department. However, I believe Dunham has the superior wrestling and should be able to keep this on the feet. Further, if this fight does go to the ground I think Dunham will be on top and he should be able to stop Lauzon’s guard game. Dunham’s superior striking and volume should be the difference in this one, as he should take home a decision over the Massachusetts native. The Prediction: Evan Dunham defeats Joe Lauzon by unanimous decision
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