TAMPA, Fla. – One week after a card that featured eight decisions and no submissions, Saturday night's UFC show could be turned into a one-night DVD release called "Ultimate Submissions."
Joe Lauzon (18-4) topped a night which featured six submission endings in 10 matches, stopping Jeremy Stephens (16-4) in the main event at 4:43 of the second round with an armbar.
Lauzon fought like a lighter weight Japanese fighter, with slick ground work, constantly going for submissions and not being afraid of losing position. He even went for a flying scissors takedown into an ankle lock attempt early in the fight, but Stephens was able to escape.
Stephens opened Lauzon up in the second round with elbows, and went for a choke. Lauzon made an escape from underneath, maneuvered into the mount and finally finished with an armbar. UFC awarded Lauzon a $30,000 bonus for best submission on night with a lot of competition for the award.
"I'm really big into computers," said Lauzon. "I used to watch highlights all day. I love that [Japanese] style. They may not always be the best fighters, but I think they have the best fight."
The back-and-forth nature of the main event saw the near-sellout crowd of 7,596 at the University of South Florida Sun Dome stomping the floor with excitement.
Lauzon was originally slated to face Hermes Franca in the main event, but Franca tore his ACL two weeks ago in training, so Stephens, his training partner, stepped in.
Both Lauzon and Franca had been civil in the buildup, but after Franca pulled out, Lauzon on the Internet wished him the best of luck, and suddenly Franca turned on him, saying Lauzon was lucky he got hurt and then saying how he saw Lauzon's younger brother Dan's fight on the Jan. 24 Affliction show and he wasn't any good.
"I think he talked a lot of trash for a guy who backed out of the fight," said Lauzon. "I didn't say anything bad about him. I think he's a bigger name. When I started training, I used to be a big fan of Hermes but now I'd like to fight him."
The most hype leading into the show was for Cain Velasquez (5-0), a two-time All-American wrestler with great hand speed for a heavyweight and conditioning that is almost legendary inside the industry.
He had his toughest test to date as he was taken into the second round for the first time in his career by 246-pound powerhouse Denis Stojnic (12-2) of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Velasquez had no problems with his streak of first round wins ending.
"I was thinking I needed ring time," he said. "I was looking for a guy who could give me that."
Stojnic, from the Golden Glory kickboxing team in Holland, and with a background in sambo, was shut down in both of his specialties, but proved to be able to take punishment.
Velasquez, who joked after the match about Stojnic's hard head, connected with hard punches and knees down the center to the face while standing in the first round, noting the game plan was to keep the fight standing early and go for angles.
He took Stojnic down in the second round and was able to control him, landing constant punches and elbows. The ending was flat, as Velasquez constantly peppered Stojnic with punches on the ground, but didn't seem to have him seriously hurt. But Stojnic wasn't getting out of a dangerous position and ref Jorge Ortiz stopped it at 2:34 of the second round.
"I need to throw three or four punches in combination," said Velasquez. "I was doing two punches and a kick."
Velasquez still got the $30,000 best knockout bonus, apparently for persistence in landing so many hard shots on a guy difficult to finish.
It was the first time Velasquez had been heavily promoted as a main star of a show, in an attempt to get his name as big to the public as it is within the industry. Velasquez has become the one of the UFC's hardest fighters to not only find opponents for, but of late, trainer Javier Mendez noted he's having trouble keeping training partners.
"It felt good," said the soft-spoken product of Arizona State University. "I liked doing the P.R. stuff. It took my mind off the fights."
The fight of the night saw Ultimate Fighter Season 6 winner Mac Danzig (19-6-1) lose his second fight in a row, when Josh Neer (25-7-1) trapped him in a triangle at 3:36 of the second round in a fight that went back and forth.
Neer felt he was never in trouble, but said he did fear it being stopped because blood was coming into his eye.
"I felt like it was from a headbutt," said Neer, who ended up arguing with the crowd, yelling at them after he was booed for not touching gloves at the start of the second round.
"I'm not here to touch gloves, I'm here to fight. He headbutted me in the first round, and I think in the second round. I told the ref."
Danzig won the first round on two of the three judges' cards in what was one of the best fights of the early part of 2009. Neer was more aggressive, but Danzig often danced out of the way and landed good counter shots. Both men damaged the other on the ground.
"I heard he doesn't like it when you pressure him," said Neer. "If you do things unorthodox he gets frustrated easy."
Both men earned $30,000 bonuses for the best match.
Anthony Johnson (7-2) finished Luigi Fiorvanti (13-5) at 4:39 of the first round, finishing him with punches on the ground after a second knockdown.
Still, Johnson seemed unhappy with his performance and some of the hype in his direction at being a welterweight title contender.
"I have to improve at everything," he said. "I have to become more well-rounded. Everybody thinks all I can do is knock people out. I haven't shown any submissions. People talk about me going against GSP and being ready for a title shot. For me to have a chance against GSP, I'd have to improve 100 percent."
Three-time NCAA wrestling champion Jake Rosholt suffered his first pro loss, losing to a guillotine in a scramble in just 1:03 against Dan Miller.
- Joe Lauzon
- Cain Velasquez