The Fights of Justin Lawrence: Nick Pope, Victim #3

This week's RFT feature story profiles a young mixed martial arts fighter named Justin Lawrence. A phenom from Pacific, Missouri, many local experts predict that Lawrence will become a UFC champion

We're counting down the greatest hits in his brief amateur cage fighting career on Daily RFT and pairing them with excerpts and bonus material from the feature. Today, Lawrence's third career victory, a submission against Nick Pope in the Xtreme Fight League at the Stratford Inn in Fenton.

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Excerpt from the story after the jump...

Lawrence's third fight took place this past May against Nick Pope, a featherweight stepping into the octagon for the first time. Lawrence caught Pope almost immediately after the opening bell with a kick to the solar plexus. Pope dodged a pair of spinning kicks, then whiffed with two wild haymakers. After ducking the second punch, Lawrence countered with a left cross to the jaw that sent Pope staggering. Lawrence pounced, wrapping his legs around his opponent's abdomen and strangling him into submission with a maneuver known as the "rear naked choke."

When Lawrence fights, he wears trunks with the words "Jesus Saves" emblazoned in bold white letters. He counts former University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, known to sport Bible verses on his eye black, among the athletes he admires most. Asked to name the professional fighters he hopes to emulate, he rattles off a list -- including BJ Penn, Georges St-Pierre and Fedor Emelianenko -- that runs the gamut in terms of nationalities, weight classes and fighting styles.

"I like those guys because they can beat other fighters at their own game," he explains. "That's what I want to do: I want to beat the best at their best."

He had better be well rounded if he hopes to thrive at the highest levels of MMA.

"Mixed martial arts has become its own style," says Steve "The Red Nosed Pitbull" Berger, a UFC veteran who operates an MMA school out of the Arnold Boxing Gym. "Guys got smart: They trained in multiple styles and figured out you can't just be a jiu-jitsu guy, you can't just be a boxer or wrestler and win fights. You have to be everything."
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