Waiting for his order at a coffee shop, Joe (J-Lau) Lauzon could pass for a college kid in shorts and a hoodie.
Only the Lauzon MMA logo hints that there might be another side to the computer science graduate.
Inside the cage, the 28-year-old from Bridgewater, Mass., is a bundle of aggression who has won 11 bonus cheques in 13 UFC fights — including seven of his last eight. Only middleweight champion Anderson Silva, seen as the best pound-for-pound fighter in mixed martial arts, has more in the organization (12).
On Saturday, Lauzon looks (22-7) to tie the champ in the bonus standings when he takes on lightweight Jim Miller (21-4) in the co-main event of UFC 155 in Las Vegas. Junior Dos Santos defends his heavyweight title in the main event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena against former champion Cain Velasquez.
Lauzon credits his attack-oriented style for the bonus bonanza.
"There’s times when other people might slow down a little bit or play it a little bit safer and I just kind of rush in with reckless abandon," he explained. "It’s come back to bite me a few times but more often than not it’s really worked out well and it’s been in my favour.
"Going out there and playing it super-safe is really not my style," he added. "It might be smarter in some cases … I think I take a lot of risks but I think they’re usually calculated risks. I don’t think I’m just making terrible decisions, latching on to whatever I can get. A lot of times when I’m going for stuff, it seems kind of crazy but it’s stuff I’ve been doing for years and years in training."
Lauzon says the bonuses flow from his fighting style and they usually don’t go through his mind in the cage.
"Usually it just kind of happens," he said.
The exception came in June 2011.
He recalls dropping Curt Warburton with a punch and then thinking: "I should go for a submission and get the bonus.
"But really that’s the only time I’ve been thinking about it during a fight."
He won by kimura against Warburton, collecting $50,000 for submission of the night.
Then again, softening an opponent up by strikes is nothing new for Lauzon.
"I’ve got tons of submission on my record (18) but a lot of those submissions came because I hit someone in the face really hard before," he said.
Gabe Ruediger got both, thanks in part for bringing a cake that said "Sorry for your Loss" to the weigh-in for his fight against Lauzon at UFC 118. Lauzon made him tap to an armbar in two minutes one second.
The two were teammates on Season 5 of "The Ultimate Fighter." Lauzon lost in the semifinals to Manny Gamburyan.
Away from the cage, Lauzon showed his own sense of humour recently when he tweeted his girlfriend’s comments during the telecast of the finale to Season 16 of "The Ultimate Fighter." She had no idea what he was doing.
The good news is she is still speaking to him.
Lauzon was originally slated to face Gray (The Bully) Maynard on Saturday but an injury in training made it Miller time. Lauzon was slated to meet Terry Etim in his previous fight but another injury pushed Jamie Varner into the spotlight.
"It’s just one of those things," said Lauzon. "I think that as time goes on. It’s going to happen more and more so you’ve got to roll with the punches and be ready for it."
Lauzon did just that against Varner, walking away with US$100,000 in bonuses for fight of the night and best submission.
Lauzon poured about $40,000 of that into his gym, which has just moved into a bigger location.
Listed at 5-10, Lauzon normally walks around at 170 to 175 pounds, cutting down to weigh in at 155 for his fights. He credits a "super-fast metabolism" for keeping his weight in check.
"You look at me and you’d think I should be 250 pounds from the amount of food that I eat," he joked. "So I’m really kind of fortunate in that.
"But I’ve never had a fight where I felt like I was way overmatched in strength. … Usually I’m fighting guys that are shorter than me and stockier than me, so I have some reach and length advantage that plays to my favour."
Lauzon is 9-4 in the UFC and has taken something from every defeat.
Two fights ago against Anthony (Showtime) Pettis at UFC 144, he was stopped in 81 seconds after getting tagged with a head kick. Fighting in Japan was an issue, though one Pettis also had to deal with, as Lauzon notes.
"It was very, very difficult," he said. "We fought at like nine on Sunday morning and I just couldn’t wake up. I was in the back room slapping myself in the face, putting my head under water."
Lauzon believes that if Pettis had hit him a few times before the head kick he might have woken up.
"It just so happened that the first shot he landed was the game-changer, the final kill," he rued. "Props to him."
At UFC 123, Lauzon looked sluggish in the second round before being submitted by George Sotiropoulos.
He said he felt great in the first round.
"I felt great walking to my corner. I sat down on the stool, I felt great, got my breath back, everything like that. And when I went to get off the stool, my legs turned to concrete. I think it was just tons of lactic acid. I’m really no sure why it happened."
At UFC 108, Canadian Sam (Hands of Stone) Stout won a decision over Lauzon — the only time Lauzon has gone the distance in his career.
Lauzon says he rushed taking the fight, which came some 10 months after surgery to repair a knee injured in a February 2009 win over Jeremy (Lil’ Heathen) Stephens.
"Even after the Sam Stout fight, there were probably a couple of months until I was back to 100 per cent," he said.
Still, he had a kimura hold that eventually didn’t stick. Lauzon admits to maybe easing up a little bit, thinking "I don’t want to do more damage than I have to on the guy’s shoulder."
Stout wiggled out and went on to win.
"I definitely felt like I had him when he was at the top of his game," Lauzon said. "He fought a great fight."
His first UFC loss came at the hands of fellow Boston-area fighter Kenny Florian in April 2008.
"Kenny straight up beat me," Lauzon said. "There’s nothing I can say."
All Lauzon will say was at the time he felt it was a little early to face a veteran like Florian.
"I just thought he was out of my league at the time," he said. "But my job is a fighter is to fight whoever they tell me."
Lauzon was stopped in the second round.
While injuries may be part of the business, Lauzon laments the time spent on a game plan for fighting Maynard.
"It sucks putting together a battle plan and then not putting it to use," said Lauzon. "We did all the homework, we did everything to get ready for it and then it got wasted.
"But you never know. I might end up fighting Gray down the line so we’ll see what happens."
Lauzon likes the Miller matchup, however.
"I think it’ll be a more entertaining fight than the fight with Gray. I think with Gray, it would have been more of a boxing, kickboxing match," Lauzon said. "He’s got such dominant wrestling, it would be really tough to try and take him down.
"Whereas with Jim Miller, he might take me down, I might take him down. We both like submissions so I think we’ll have some great scrambles on the ground. I think it should be really exciting."
Lauzon’s camp was helped by the fact that training partner Joe Proctor was also preparing for a fight. Proctor, with Lauzon in his corner, lost a decision to Ramsey Nijem on Dec. 8 at Seattle’s KeyArena.
The Lauzon-Miller fight is a meeting of fighting brothers. Lightweight Dan Lauzon previously fought in the UFC and is looking to get back while middleweight Dan Miller is currently on the UFC books.
An avid gamer when not in training camp, Lauzon — who once held down a day job as an IT guy — made sure his basement was wired for gaming parties.
"Call of Duty" is a favourite franchise.
"All my buddies will come over with their flatscreen TVs and their computer monitors and their Xboxs and there’ll be six or eight of us there," he said. "We’ll play Xbox for 10, 12 hours."