By Nick Canelas
BOSTON - On Aug. 28, 2010, Joe Lauzon became a local star.
The Brockton, Mass., native fought Gabe Ruediger in his own backyard at UFC 118 at TD Garden, the first Ultimate Fighting Championship event in the Bay State after Mixed Martial Arts was legalized in Massachusetts in November 2009, and put on a show.
Lauzon dominated Ruediger from the start, and finished him off 2 minutes, 1 second into the first round with an armbar to submit Ruediger and bring the sold-out Garden crowd, which included about 600 friends and family, to its feet, cheering at deafening tones.
It was a dream come true for Lauzon.
“The crowd reaction was crazy,” Lauzon told CSNNE.com. “I've never heard something so loud. It's one thing to hear something, it's another thing to feel the vibration of people going insane.”
Lauzon returns to the Garden on Saturday night as the only fighter to be in both cards in Boston when he takes on Michael Johnson in a lightweight bout in UFC Fight Night.
Now the challenge is to top arguably the best performance of the 29-year-old's career, something Lauzon knows is going to be hard to do.
“I don't know if we can top it. I'm gonna try like hell,” Lauzon told CSNNE. “I couldn't plan something better. I'm hoping something amazing happens on Saturday. We train really hard so we're ready for it, but I have no idea how we're gonna do it.”
There's also an extra incentive if Lauzon can come anywhere close to what he achieved that 2010 fight. He has 11 career fight night bonuses, which is second all-time behind Anderson Silva's 12. Another bonus, which would likely be for Fight of the Night or Submission of the Night, would tie him for the record right in front of his home crowd.
“All you have to know is how many fight night bonuses the kid has won,” UFC President Dana White said of Lauzon. “If you've never seen Joe Lauzon fight, you get a good idea. He's a great guy, smart guy, great investment for the sport. He goes out and does it.”
Lauzon is coming off a loss to Jim Miller in his last fight. But his opponent, Johnson, is on a two-fight losing streak of his own.
Lauzon considered the matchup a “very favorable” one because of his “huge advantage on the ground.” So his goal will be to bring Johnson to the ground as soon as possible to go for the submission.
“The goal for me is gonna be to get the fight down to the ground, beat him up, rough him up a little bit, catch a submission, try to get that submission to end the fight,” Lauzon said.
Johnson, on the other hand, is excited because he feels like all the pressure is on Lauzon.
“There's absolutely no second thoughts,” Johnson said. “My first thought was I'm excited to get this fight. I wanted to fight Joe for a long time, so now to finally get this in his backyard, it's definitely great for me.
“There's no pressure on me. He's expected to come in here and run right through me, but it's gonna be a little bit different Saturday night.”
With all of that pressure, Lauzon expects to be pretty nervous for the fight, especially in front of a packed house that will include another 600 or so family and friends.
“I always get a little bit nervous for fights, so it's gonna be a little bit worse being here,” he said. “There's been fights where I'm not nervous at all, there's been fights where I go out and I feel like I'm gonna start randomly crying for some reason, there's a lot of pressure.”
Either way, Lauzon is excited, and the fact that he gets to stay home makes it that much sweeter.
“I love the fact that it's home,” Lauzon said. “I love that I get to stay in my own house, sleep in my own bed and not have to fly anywhere and not have to stay in a hotel. I know where the good food spots are, I know how to park. It's a lot easier than going across the world or something.”
By Nick Canelas