Kicking off the main card of UFC 173, headlined by Renan Barao vs. TJ Dillashaw, are two lightweights looking to get back on the right track after recent setbacks. After posting a 1-1 record in the Octagon, James Krause looks to stay above .500 in his third fight in the UFC. Jamie Varner will look to ruin that plan, as he himself is coming off of back to back losses for the second time in his career. Look for these guys to fight a desperate fight to secure that all-important win.
James Krause (20-5 overall, 1-1 UFC)
Strengths: Submissions, not a shabby striker
Weaknesses: Cannot beat top shelf competition
Jamie Varner (21-9 overall, 2-3 UFC)
Strengths: Striking power, good ground game
Weaknesses: Overall defense
Fight Breakdown – Varner will try to keep it standing, Krause will try to take it to the ground. Jamie Varner has some heavy hands for a lightweight and very nearly finished Abel Trujillo in his last fight. We’re talking like millimeter-away type of close. If he had been just a tad more systematic against Trujillo, he probably wins that fight and he wouldn’t even have drawn Krause as a matchup.
But he lost, and lost badly, made even worse by the fact that he was so close to winning. He showed some serious punching ability in that fight, and had he been a little more varied in his strikes, it’s probably a different outcome. That’s what he should do against Krause. Instead of just throwing punches, which he should still do in high volume of course, Varner needs to mix in some kicks and knees, as well as elbow shots if/when he gets Krause against the cage.
If Varner is able to land effectively and land he should, then we’ll see Krause start to slow things down and bring it to the ground. Varner has to do everything he can to prevent that, it will halt all of his rhythm and momentum, and make this fight much more even than it should be. Varner should be very comfortable on his feet against Krause, so he’ll want to keep the fight there as much as possible. He just needs to tag Krause with a variety of strikes to the head and body from all four limbs. And if he does get Krause hurt and stumbling, he needs to take his time and be patient to find that finish. That was the mistake he made against Trujillo and he cannot afford to make that same mistake ever again.
Krause needs to keep Varner guessing and not let him establish any type of flow or rhythm in his striking. A frenetic pace for the first two rounds ought to accomplish that, and Krause should be a whirling dervish of nonstop leg kicks, front kicks and punches. He needs to move well, and go at angles to make sure Varner can’t find his mark. Standing still, right in front of “C-4″ will probably not be to his benefit. Once he gets Varner frustrated and coming in impatiently, he can find his takedowns a bit easier or find a way to trip Varner up. The one thing he can’t do is stand and trade with Varner, unless of course he is faster to the punch and packs a wollop. He has finished guys by strikes early in the first round before, but no one as experienced and dangerous as Jamie Varner. His strongest chance of winning is by grappling and clinching, not by pure striking.
Key to Victory: Can Varner find his mojo?
This is Varner’s fight to win or lose. He’s the better fighter on paper and he should be in the cage as well. He’s fought more experienced and skilled fighters and that should help him against Krause. Krause is no slouch and if Varner isn’t on top of his game come fight night, a guy like Krause could easily take advantage and send Varner to three losses in a row. But if Varner is prepared and fights a smart fight, he should be able to win a decision at the minimum, as long as he has moved past that devastating loss to Trujillo.
Why It Matters – Krause is 1-1 in the UFC at the moment. He started off with a great win, submitting Sam Stout seconds before the fight would go to the cards. That’s a tough task for a lightweight fighter making his UFC debut, so it speaks to his credit. But then he met Bobby Green, another fighter new to the UFC, who is going on a tear right now. Green finished Krause in the first round of their matchup, and now it’s like Krause’s win almost doesn’t matter. He needs to get on the winning side of .500, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
Jamie Varner, in his second stint in the UFC, is now 2-3. As mentioned before, he easily could have and should have won his fight against Abel Trujillo, but he got reckless and Trujillo came back with a vengeance. He lost a tough split decision to Gleison Tibau before that and lost to Joe Lauzon back in 2012. He’s beaten Edson Barboza and Melvin Guillard, two quality wins, but beating Guillard doesn’t seem as impressive now as it did back then. Basically, Varner needs to get back into the win column, like, yesterday. He’s beaten some very good fighters, but with any step up in competition, he loses. That’s called someone’s ceiling, and Varner, only at 29, does not want that. He beats Krause on paper and there’s no reason for him to not win come fight night.
Prediction – Varner