"For the people who have watched me fight or haven't, it's always an exciting fight." - Lorenz Larkin
Lorenz Larkin is moving forward.
Whether it is literally in the cage toward his unfortunate opponent, in the rankings in search of even tougher competition, or leaving a controversial debut loss in the past, the UFC middleweight has his sights set on what’s in front of him and ready to forget what’s behind him. After a very successful couple years in Strikeforce and a head-turning rookie season inside the Octagon, “The Monsoon” is poised to make a lot of noise in 2014 with his fan-friendly fighting style, which Larkin showed off a more in your face version of at UFC Fight for the Troops 3.
“My expectations were to be more aggressive,” asserts Larkin. “Sometimes I'm not that aggressive in my fights and I play more of a defensive role. I mix in the offensive with the defensive, but it's more defensive. I wanted to come out and be more aggressive and see how that went. I felt like I got to display that.”
“The Monsoon” never fit as a counterstriker’s nickname anyway, and Larkin’s arsenal of highlight reel attacks were never meant for a passive athlete. The 27-year-old from Riverside, California has not been shy in any of his 16 professional bouts about throwing spin kicks, jumping kicks, or jumping-spinning kicks, but Larkin admits he’s allowed his adversaries to lead the dance more than he should have. In November against hard-headed Chris Camozzi, Larkin dictated the pace and action of the fight with a non-stop barrage of dizzying punches, kicks, elbows, and knees for all 15 minutes.
“I felt more in control,” affirms Larkin. “I felt a lot better after the fight than I did after most of my fights. I'm just ready to bring it more. I've always been ready to bring it and it happened more when I was pressured, but now I'm starting to go after it. When I'm throwing, I'm trying to finish. I don't think anybody wants to go all three rounds with me. The past guys I've been fighting have all been tough. I don't think there are any ducks in the UFC, but I have been fighting some tough opponents. They don't have a history of getting knocked out.”
The unanimous decision win improved Larkin’s record to 14-1 with 1 NC and netted him his first W inside the Octagon. “It felt like relief coming off my back,” says Larkin, who lost an odd decision in April to Francis Carmont in his first fight since crossing over from Strikeforce. The bout saw Larkin successfully defending countless takedown attempts and outstriking Carmont nearly 3-to-1, but the judges saw it differently. “I put it behind me and I know I'll get the chance to meet him in the future. Now, it's just taking it a fight at a time and building my name and building my rank and building my position in this company.”
For the man with the trademark haircut of his hometown’s “Raincross” bell shaved into the side of his head, the key to climbing the rankings is to turn the mentality of being a high profile UFC fighter into an average 9-5 job. In general, Larkin is still quite young in the sport, turning pro near the end of 2009 and entering only his fourth fight at middleweight since dropping down from light heavyweight. Plus, there’s always an adjustment period when joining the UFC. Even in Larkin’s search for stability, he has already shown way more than a few flashes of brilliance inside the Octagon, like the standing elbows to Camozzi’s dome.
“To me, the biggest thing is being comfortable,” reveals Larkin. “Being comfortable in the atmosphere and just trying to be more comfortable at the weight. The disadvantage for guys fighting for the first time in the UFC are the cameras; you've got (site coordinator) Burt (Watson) running backstage yelling - it's overwhelming. The more you do it, the more comfortable you get and the more relaxed you get, then the more it becomes another day in the office. I'm becoming comfortable and realizing the routines. I'm just trying to get my cut down to where it is routine and not so hard. My last fight, by the time I got into the sauna all I had to do was cut two pounds. I was in the sauna for like 15 minutes and I was done. Other guys are there all morning. I'm getting being a middleweight down to a science.”
Up next, a striker’s showdown is set to hit Duluth, Georgia on January 15th in the co-main event at UFC Fight Night as Larkin takes on the heavy-handed Hawaiian Brad Tavares. The 26-year-old is enjoying a four fight win streak that has stretched across three continents and two years. Having trained with excellent stand-up coaches like the late Shawn Tompkins, John Hackleman, and, currently, Ray “Sugarfoot” Sefo, Tavares has proved to be an ultra tough competitor with an 11-2 record and more than half of those bouts inside the UFC’s cage. Tavares has shown he’s got great cardio and solid takedown defense to go along with his crisp, technical striking.
“He's another tough dude,” tells Larkin. “A good thing, in my eyes, of going against all these tough dudes, it's just another day in the office. I hope he's been training good because I control my training regimen and I know I'll be ready, so I hope he's ready. I'm always ready for anything that comes. If it's striking, I'm all for it. At the end of the day though, if somebody is getting the better of me striking then I'm going to go for a takedown or vice versa with him. If it stays striking then it stays there. I'm open to wherever the fight goes. I know he's an all-around fighter and not a one trick pony, so I'm looking for the fight to go wherever it ends up going.”
In preparation for Tavares, Larkin keeps it local with his training at Millennia MMA in Rancho Cucamonga, California. “They've just been getting my hands crisp and making me more of a complete MMA fighter,” says Larkin of his coaching team, which includes founders/head instructors Betiss Mansouri and Romie Aram. In charge of Larkin’s always fun to watch fists and feet is longtime striking coach Irish DeWitt. “Just cleaning me up and getting my technique down to where it needs to be. I think I have that style that can get a person interested to watch even if they're a fan of MMA or not.”
On January 15th at the Arena at Gwinnett Center, a middleweight melee is set to go off in the co-main event between two of the division’s fastest rising talents in Larkin and Tavares. “For the people who have watched me fight or haven't, it's always an exciting fight,” states Larkin, who has already made himself ‘must see’ MMA TV with his explosive stand-up style. Now, with “The Monsoon” focused on being in the driver’s seat for his fights, expect to see a striking storm rain or reign over the UFC’s middleweight division.