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Ricardo Lamas remains understated featherweight force

Ricardo Lamas, left, fights Erik Koch during UFC Featherweight Championship on FOX 6 at the United Center in Chicago, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. Lamas won the bout. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Ricardo Lamas took a major gamble and it paid off, as he managed to emerge triumphant in what was both a harrowing and exciting battle against Charles Oliveira at the TUF Latin America 3 Finale in Mexico City. Lamas opted to forge ahead with the matchup against the dangerous Brazilian submission specialist even though “Do Bronx” came in a whopping nine pounds overweight for what was to be a pivotal featherweight clash.

While it would’ve been easy for the No. 4-ranked Lamas to decline the catchweight contest after Oliveira’s latest botched weight cut, it also would’ve been an especially bitter pill to swallow after “The Bully” already saw a previously scheduled main event clash against B.J. Penn fall through at Fight Night 97 in the Philippines because of an injury sustained by “The Prodigy.”

The loss of that headlining bout led to the cancellation of the entire event. After agreeing to terms that included a mandated weight limit requirement for Oliveira just hours prior to the bout and receiving 30 percent of his opponent’s purse, the contest remained on the card and provided quite a bit of drama.

The former featherweight title challenger was looking to rebound after a unanimous decision loss against surging No. 3-ranked contender Max Holloway in what was a spirited battle at UFC 199. Lamas appeared as though he was headed for back-to-back losses for the first time in his career when he was caught in a tight rear-naked choke submission attempt from Oliveira to end the opening frame. He showed his resolve in surviving that moment of extreme peril until being saved by the horn.

The grappling continued in the second stanza as an Oliveira takedown would eventually see Lamas showcase his own ground skills by securing a sweep reversal to gain top control. From there, Lamas continued to apply the pressure on his opponent’s shoulder and neck until eventually sinking in a guillotine choke that forced the No. 8-ranked Oliveira to tap at the 2:13 mark. The victory earned the talented MMA Masters product a well-deserved Performance of the Night bonus and solidified his elite status. He was definitely playing with fire in dealing with a Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace who enjoyed a considerable size advantage but Lamas was able to overcome those obstacles.

For whatever reason, the gritty 34-year-old Lamas tends to get overlooked in a division that has been rife with uncertainty ever since Conor McGregor captured the 145-pound strap. The featherweight belt hasn’t been defended since “The Notorious” ended Jose Aldo’s lengthy title reign in December of 2015.

Aldo captured an interim title at UFC 200 when he bested Frankie Edgar in their rematch and remains fixated on getting a chance to avenge his 13-second knockout loss at the hands of the heavy-handed Dublin native. McGregor, of course, has business to attend to at UFC 205 when he tangles with current lightweight titlist Eddie Alvarez in a champion vs. champion clash.

Ricardo Lamas checks before fighting with Erik Koch during UFC Featherweight Championship on FOX 6 at the United Center in Chicago, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. Lamas won the bout. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Ricardo Lamas. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Lamas had a previous title opportunity against Aldo, only to drop a unanimous decision at UFC 169. He’s compiled an 8-3 record during his time with the organization with those losses coming at the hands of top-flight opposition. Lamas’ only other Octagon defeat came at the hands of former two-time title challenger Chad Mendes. He may not be as flashy as some of the other more highly-touted contenders but he’s a tough out for anyone with his wrestling, submission skills and ferocious ground-and-pound. Lamas has proven capable of securing finishes against strong competition including the likes of Dennis Bermudez and Cub Swanson.

While Oliveira’s featherweight future would appear to be somewhat uncertain after yet another fail at the scale, there’s no doubt that Lamas should still be considered a key player. The importance of Lamas’ latest victory under tough circumstances was reflected by the emotional nature of his post-fight interview. He discussed his mother’s current battle with cancer and the tragic passing of former teammate Josh Samman. It was the third straight successful effort on Mexican soil for Lamas, as he has also enjoyed previous success against Diego Sanchez and Bermudez.

In examining what could potentially be next for Lamas, there are undoubtedly a number of enticing options that could be in play. With Edgar squaring off against heavy-handed veteran Jeremy Stephens next weekend at UFC 205, Lamas would seem well-positioned to square off against the victor. “The Bully” could also be under consideration to do battle against the winner of next month’s UFC 206 contest between Swanson and Doo Ho Choi. Lamas owns a previous triumph over the No. 5-ranked Swanson while his toughness would make him a formidable test for “The Korean Superboy” in his ascension up the ladder.

Lamas definitely warrants considerable praise for allowing one of the most attractive matchups on the promotion’s latest foray into Mexico to proceed as planned despite the difficult circumstances. He has clearly built up some added goodwill with the organization and further respect from fans alike for his bravado. He’s more than deserving of future high-profile clashes. Lamas is truly one of the most understated forces in the current featherweight landscape and is more than capable of making a run back into contention in what’s a complicated title picture.

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