Carlos Lozoya is a name to remember in the flyweight division.
The 26-year-old talent, who picked up a second-round stoppage win over Randy Villarreal last month at Fury FC 60 on UFC FIGHT PASS, sports a 7-2 record and a six-fight winning streak to go along with a fluid, fully formed arsenal that means he can dictate the terms of engagement no matter the preferred style of the opponent standing across from him.
“If someone is great at something, I really try to focus on making them uncomfortable at whatever they’re not great at,” Lozoya said when we spoke earlier in the month. “If I’m going with a great wrestler, I strike and clinch with them. If someone has great jiu jitsu, I’m going to out-wrestle them. If someone has great standup, I’m going to grapple with them.
“It’s nice that I can do these things to these people and, on top of that, I have great fundamentals in my striking. I know that technically I’m very sound, I’m extremely defensively minded, and I’m dangerous on my feet.
“What I really love is that I can pressure people and be safe, and work to break people,” continued the former Army Ranger, who began training jiu jitsu under the great Sergio Penha when he was just a kid, and then transitioned into wrestling before shifting his focus to mixed martial arts prior to entering the military. “That’s really what my game is about: I break people and then look for the finish, and I can do that anywhere.”
While all of this may sound like the kind of self-confident assessment any competitor would give themselves when asked to explain their style and lay out what makes them great inside the cage, Lozoya’s head coach thinks just as highly about the ascending flyweight prospect, and he’s got a pretty good amount of experience to base his assessment on.
“Thank f****** God I have 40 pounds on him,” said Joe Lauzon, the 37-year-old UFC lightweight veteran and Lozoya’s current head coach out in Massachusetts. “The first time I rolled with him, we slap hands and I try to grapple with him, and I’m assuming that I’m better or even with him, and then he’s a f****** spider monkey.
“He puts the wrestling and jiu jitsu together so well, and he’s a f****** nightmare to deal with,” laughed Lauzon. “It went from being ‘He’s smaller, I’m going to be nice to him’ to me trying to cross-face him and hurt him however I can to make him uncomfortable because he’s so f****** good.”
It’s been a long road to reaching the point where decorated and experienced veterans like Lauzon are both cursing him out and entrusting him to run classes at his gym when he can’t be there.
Lozoya trained with Penha until his was 17, and then moved to North Idaho to wrestle in college. He’d also make the trek 30 minutes west to Spokane, Washington to train at Sikjitsu, sharing the mats with the likes of Michael Chiesa, Sam Sicilia, and Terrance McKinney working under the watchful eye of head coach Rick Little.
During his first year of college, a friend asked him if he wanted to go to Montana and take a fight, so he agreed. He landed in the cage opposite current UFC bantamweight contender Sean O’Malley, losing the fight by disqualification in the fifth round as a result of landing errant shots to the back of the head.
He eventually enlisted in the military, beginning with the National Guard before going active duty, ultimately landing in the Army Rangers, where he met Connor Matthews, an undefeated featherweight prospect expected to compete on Dana White’s Contender Series later this summer.
Once he completed his military service, Lozoya was trying to figure out his next steps, and with Matthews training under Lauzon and Lozoya’s wife eyeing enrollment at Harvard, a move to Massachusetts made too much sense.
“Connor Matthews is one of my guys that has been training with us since he was a kid, and Connor met Carlos in the military,” said Lauzon “They trained a lot, became boys, and now we get Carlos, who is a huge asset — a nice kid, so quiet and polite, but an absolute f****** savage when he steps into the cage.”
That savageness was on full display last month when he ventured to Houston and took on Villarreal, a local staple coming off a quality win over Contender Series alum Jacob Silva.
From the outset, Lozoya took control of the fight. He walked down Villarreal, attacking with clean, powerhouse strikes when the two were standing, transitioning fluidly to the canvas when he looked to wrestle. Each time Villarreal looked to counter or escape, Lozoya was one step ahead of him, floating to the next position or punishing him with a heavy kick to the body or clean right hand that kept him hemmed in with little room to maneuver.
After getting the fight to the canvas in the second, the streaking flyweight hopeful hunted for the finish, earning the stoppage as a torrent of elbows rained down, leaving Villarreal bloodied on the mat.
“Randy has some notable fights on his record, and he was on a three-fight winning streak, beating a Contender Series veteran,” Lozoya said of his most recent opponent. “I knew not to take him lightly, I trained real hard, and I just knew my grappling would be on a different level. I knew once I got on top, he would play a lot of jiu jitsu with me, but I’m not doing jiu jitsu when I’m fighting — I’m doing MMA, I’m fighting.
“It was a big win and I think it shows you can’t just put me with a wrestler or a grappler with good hands,” he added. “I know how to beat these guys.”
Now riding a five-fight winning streak that includes a victory over former Ultimate Fighter contestant Ricky Steele, the future looks bright for Lozyoa.
Like every young hopeful, he has dreams of crossing the threshold into the UFC Octagon and believes that he could compete with the best in the sport right now if the opportunity presents itself, but he’s not in any rush to get there.
“How many UFC fighters do you see make it, get two fights, and then they get cut because they didn’t have the experience?” he said. “The UFC is the next level and that’s the goal, but that mat time is one of the most valuable things you can get.
“Competing is so important, and the UFC isn’t going anywhere.”
Lauzon couldn’t agree with the approach more.
“Experience is important,” said the lightweight stalwart, whose fight with Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone has been re-booked for the June 18 fight card in Austin, Texas after Cerrone was forced to pull out last minute due to food poisoning earlier this month. “You can’t get to the UFC if you’ve only fought cab drivers, but you’ve got to be smart.
“I think if he had a couple more tough fights, I think it would just season him a little more and that would be helpful. He was in the military, he’s only had a couple fights since being out, so I wouldn’t mind seeing him take one or two more fights before getting there.
“But he could compete in the UFC no problem,” Lauzon added. “He’s a whirlwind of pain. He’s got great wrestling, he doesn’t let you off the hook, he’s just stays on you.”
Right now, Lozoya doesn’t have anything booked, but he’s not looking to sit idle for too long, nor is he all that worried about where the next call comes from because the mission always remains the same.
“No matter what happens — if I get the call from the UFC or not, or if I get a Contender Series fight — my plan is still to be fighting,” he said. “I want to fight in two or three months whether that’s in the UFC or not.
“I think Joe is right because that mat time is super-valuable, so I’m trying to treat this like a wrestling season: keep fighting, get that experience, and when that call comes — and I know it’s going to come — I’ll be ready.”
Remember the name Carlos Lozoya, because chances are you’re going to be hearing it a lot in the coming years.