George Sotiropoulos (right): Sherdog.com

Two of the UFC’s brightest lightweight prospects will lock horns at UFC 123 on Saturday, as “The Ultimate Fighter” alums George Sotiropoulos and Joe Lauzon meet in a featured bout at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Mich.

The matchup is heavy with intrigue, as Sotiropoulos represents a significant step up in competition for the budding Lauzon. The Massachusetts native has gone 6-2 during his time with the UFC and has become known for his strong jiu-jitsu game and athleticism. Lauzon burst onto the scene in 2006 when he upset former lightweight king Jens Pulver at UFC 63. Now, the 26-year-old will compete on arguably the biggest stage of his young career, as he throws down in a pivotal 155-pound scrap.

“We're definitely a couple of new guys, and it’s great to be up here [with established UFC stars],” Lauzon said at the UFC 123 pre-fight press conference. “I’m grateful and excited to be up here.”

In Sotiropoulos, Lauzon faces one of his most dangerous opponents to date, as the Aussie holds a wealth of international experience. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has won seven straight fights, including a 6-0 mark in the UFC. His last defeat came against Dream lightweight champion Shinya Aoki in 2006. Sotiropoulos was disqualified for landing a low blow from which Aoki could not recover. After training for many years all over the world, the 33-year-old is finally ready to break into the mainstream.

“This is the culmination of many years of training, and now I’m finally up here with guys I watched on TV years ago,” said Sotiropoulos.

Whoever wins the matchup stands poised to insert himself into the lightweight division’s title picture, though UFC President Dana White remains noncommittal on the subject.

“I really can’t [comment on the title picture] until that fight happens,” said White. “With [Benson] Henderson and the rest of [the WEC lightweights] coming in, it’s exciting to have more guys in that division.”

Despite noise coming from Lauzon's camp regarding the fairness or lack thereof of Sotiropoulos wearing his trademark ankle sleeves, knee pads and compression shorts, the American, as of late Friday, had yet to file a formal complaint with the state athletic commission. As for Sotiropoulos, he has expressed satisfaction with Lauzon as an opponent. Regarding a possible title shot, the Aussie claims it will be business as usual if and when that opportunity presents itself.

“My intention and goal and lifestyle all stay the same,” said Sotiropoulos. “I'm just fighting, and I want to win. It’s not like that ever changes.”

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