LAS VEGAS – Everyone understands a punch to the face. The complexities involved in a mixed martial arts submission, however, are lost on many fans.
A lack of understanding of the ground game is one of the issues holding MMA from widespread acceptance.
Joe Lauzon, who has seven submissions in 13 UFC fights and has won a Submission of the Night bonus six times, concedes that most fans will never appreciate an arm bar as much as a one-punch knockout.
Rest assured, though, that he is doing his part to make it so. In addition to his six Submission of the Night bonuses, he's racked up a Knockout of the Night and four Fight of the Night bonuses while going 9-4 in the UFC.
He faces Jim Miller on Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 155 at the MGM Grand Garden and will be disappointed if he wins a three-round decision, even though it will be a significant victory in the crowded lightweight division.
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Lauzon has always sought to make his opponent tap and said he could never imagine fighting any other way. Though the UFC pays post-fight bonuses, his motivation is far more than money.
It feeds some sort of primal urge for him.
"Honestly, I do it for me more so than the bonuses," Lauzon said of his propensity to aggressively seek submissions. "The bonus money is nice, but I don't want to be a hypocrite and just go out there and try to win rounds. I don't want to go out there and skate through fights without trying to actually finish guys.
"If I'm not doing anything, I get bored, so I have to go out there and look for those submissions. I want to make them say, 'You're better. I give up.' … When you get a submission and the guy says, 'OK, please stop. You're going to destroy my arm,' or they get choked unconscious, then there is no question about who was the better guy."
Lauzon is only 28, but has been in the UFC since 2006, when he needed just 48 seconds to knock out Jens Pulver at UFC 63.
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He's just now moving into his athletic prime, but he already feels out of place in a way. There simply aren't a lot of fighters who are as aggressive as he is at going after submissions.
Occasionally, that can lead to problems, but it's also made him one of the company's must-see fighters.
"I kind of feel I'm a dinosaur a bit in that there aren't a whole lot of guys who hunt submissions nearly as aggressively as I do," he said. "There are definitely guys who have good submissions, but I feel like I go out there in every fight constantly looking for the submission. There are so many guys who seem content to win decisions and just win round after round after round.
"They do it, but they're not finishing guys. I feel like I'm one of those guys who is carrying the submission flag. There's not a whole lot of us."
He said he appreciates watching Demian Maia, Stefan Struve and Miller fight because of the way they look to get a submission.
Lauzon said he looks forward to Saturday's bout with Miller because it will showcase submission fighting at a high level.
"I think we're probably both going to come out swinging, and whoever lands the first solid punch will probably get the takedown and submit the other guy," he said.
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Most casual fans – the same ones who determine whether or not a pay-per-view show is success – will never fully grasp all the intricacies of a well-done submission.
Lauzon, though, is among that core group who is forcing them to take notice. They don't necessarily need to know all the technique to know that what they're seeing is rare and pretty special.
"I'm not a big soccer fan and if a soccer game is on TV for more than five or six minutes, I'm probably going to change the channel," he said. "But when you see someone with great ball control and guys are trying to follow him and are tripping over their own feet, I can definitely appreciate that.
"It's like that with a submission. I give people credit. They appreciate it and kind of know what's going on, they just don't appreciate all the stuff that goes into it. But they understand enough that when someone is trying to end a fight and not just cruise through 15 minutes, they definitely appreciate it."
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