Lost in the public’s primary focus on this weekend’s dual title-fights and Herschel Walker’s attempt at a 2-0 record is the excellent job Strikeforce has done in terms of peppering the preliminary portion of the card with a few potential-laden pairings. One of the match-ups drawing a lot of focus from knowledgeable Mixed Martial Arts fans features 9-3 Eric Lawson taking on American Kickboxing Academy’s Ron Keslar.
Lawson compiled a 4-0 record in Strikeforce with a quartet of first-round finishes before being sidelined with a string of injuries in mid-2008 preventing him from competing with any regularity. With a submission loss eleven months ago to Wayne Phillips in Lawson’s only fight since April 2009, it might be natural if he felt additional anxiety to perform on Saturday night. However, as Five Ounces of Pain learned in a conversation with the Strikeforce middleweight, the adversity he’s faced over the past two years has only helped sharpen his blade as well as his focus on succeeding in the ring.
“I don’t feel more pressure,” Lawson said of the situation. “I’m just personally a lot more hungry. It’s probably the hardest I’ve trained for a fight. If anything, all that time off and then my last fight being a loss, basically it’s just motivated me to step up my game in every aspect; just put more time and commitment into training. The end result is an overall, better, well-rounded Mixed Martial Artist whose going to bring more heat to the table when it comes down to fighting.”
He also made it clear that simply because he hasn’t fought with frequency as of late doesn’t mean he’s been sitting on the couch.
“In all the time between my previous fight and the time before that when I was inactive, I’ve been training. It’s just I got injuries that happened right before I had the opportunity to fight. So even though I’ve only had one fight in the past year-and-a-half, two years, I’ve been training the entire the time. I haven’t been sitting here idle or out of the game at all,” Lawson explained. “It’s more fuel to the fire for sure.”
As far as the success he experienced prior to the injury-laden run, Lawson attributed his wrestling background with the necessary mindset to perform at a high level. When asked about his ability to finish opponents early and often, the 29-year old who has only been to the third round a single time in his career replied, “I think it’s just my attitude. I don’t know. In wrestling it’s drilled into our heads to keep moving forward, keep working, and keep grinding and grinding. I feel like I bring the pressure, I’m always moving forward, and always looking for the finish. The thought of pacing myself or taking my time so that I can go the distance never pops in my head. As soon as we touch gloves it’s time to fight. I see red and its kill or be killed.”
On the subject of the bout taking place in essentially his backyard, the Californian also isn’t phased, saying, “I’ve fought at the HP Pavilion before, so 10-15 thousand people is awesome, but pretty much until the fight is over I pretty much have tunnel vision. The big crowd doesn’t really make me nervous. There’s no added pressure. Really I’m just focused on my opponent, I numb out to everything else. And of course once the fight’s over, it’s a blast with your fifteen minutes of fame in kind of a big arena. But nothing else matters besides the fight. Anything can happen, so you’re focused on that moment and what’s in front of you…everything else is kind of blacked out.”
In Keslar, Lawson doesn’t necessarily see an individual who has lost two straight but someone who has a similar, straight-forward approach to fighting who has been polished by some of the best in the sport.
“I know that Ron is a real strong wrestler with some good Jiu-Jitsu,” he began when assessing his challenge this weekend. “He’s not afraid to do it big. He’s the same way I am…he moves forward, he’s aggressive, he brings his fight to the opponent…and he’s been at AKA for a few years so he has some of the best training partners in the world.”
“Keslar is gonna be tough. He’s got heart,” Lawson continued. “He’s really aggressive, I’m really aggressive so I don’t see this fight going the distance. I see it maybe going to the second round if that, because he’s gonna be coming in there moving forward 100% and so am I, so somebody is gonna get finished.”
It also turns out Lawson’s bout isn’t the only middleweight match-up at “Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg” he sees ending before the final bell sounds. Asked about 185-pound title-holder Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza’s defense against Robbie Lawler, Lawson predicted a new champion would be crowned at the event, saying, “I think Rob can do a good job of stuffing Souza’s takedowns and that Lawler is gonna knock him out or hurt him in the stand-up, then probably get a TKO ground-and-pound on the bottom.”
In closing, Lawson thanked sponsors and friends including his management team at Alchemist MMA, coaches Gil Castillo and George Tsutsui at Combat Fitness, Booster MMA clothing, Kenny for his supplements, and Rob Gibson‘s crew at “UFC – Concord”, but ultimately saved the biggest shout out for someone far more special – his mother! According to Lawson, she will be coming down from Oregon to see him fight for the first time ever. Somehow, after speaking with the grounded, highly-focused Lawson, Five Ounces suspects he’ll find a way to successfully handle any perceived pressure of her presence.
Of Lawson’s nine total wins, five have come by way of submission with two TKOs in the bunch as well. He is 5-1 in Strikeforce with an opening round knockout of Waylon Kennell in his last win. His fight against Keslar can be seen live as part of a streaming broadcast of preliminary bouts on Sherdog starting at approximately 8:15 PM EST.
PHOTO CREDIT – ERICLAWSONMMA