Paul Taylor was supposed to make his lightweight division debut at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi, but after having trouble reaching the 155-pound limit, the Englishman’s bout with John Gunderson was called off. Six months later, Taylor will try again. Only this time it will be Sam Stout standing on the opposite side of the cage, and the Canadian is more than ready to welcome him to the weight class.
Stepping into the Octagon for the tenth time in his career, Stout will be looking to bring his record back to .500 and recapture the momentum he gained by upsetting Joe Lauzon at UFC 108. The victory was viewed as a coming out party for the long-time Shawn Tompkins student.
Having notched the biggest win of his career and entering his prime fighting years, a win over Jeremy Stephens in front of a partisan Montreal crowd at UFC 114 would have propelled Stout higher in the rankings than he had been in his career, but it wasn’t to be; Stout lost a unanimous decision, with Stephen’s power proving to be the difference maker.
The loss has put the 26-year-old veteran in an interesting position. While he tied Tyson Griffin with his fifth Fight of the Night award in his last outing, Stout sports a 4-5 record in the cage. Heading into this weekend’s meeting with Taylor in Anaheim, the London, Ontario native expects some of the new challenges Taylor faces will aid in his quest to even-out his record once again.
“We were already familiar with [Taylor]; we already had tape on him, Shawn (Tompkins) had already kind of studied up on him, and we got to take some of the pieces of the gameplan that he had in place for Gunderson and put them to work for me.
“I think there are a lot of little things that are going to work in my favor. The weight cutting issue for him – it’s his first time making 155 – and I don’t think he’s used to travelling over to the US to fight. I don’t think he’s even fought in North America, and he hasn’t fought in a long time either.”
Stout is correct on each of the last two points. Taylor has fought outside of his native England just once (UFC 99 in Cologne, Germany) and has not been inside the Octagon since suffering a unanimous decision defeat to fellow Brit John Hathaway at UFC 105 last November.
Despite the extended layoff and new hurdles facing Taylor, Stout isn’t taking anything for granted and expects to engage in another battle this weekend.
“He’s a very tough guy. He’s shown how much heart he has in all his past fights, and he’s definitely not someone I can underestimate.”
The pair has combined for eight Fight of the Night awards, and neither has been knocked out in their careers. While every fighter steps into the cage looking for a finish, the man known as “Hands of Stone” knows facing the best in the world means being prepared to go the distance every time, something he’s done in eight of his nine UFC appearances.
“Everyone wants to finish guys, but these are the toughest guys in the world I’m fighting against. If I finish someone, I finish them, and if not, I’ll take it to the scorecards. You can’t really plan for that kind of stuff before a fight. [With Taylor on Saturday] I’ll just take it as it comes.”
Stout has grown from a talented youngster with solid potential into a highly-entertaining fan favorite. Just as long-time teammate Mark Hominick has finally hit his stride and put it all together inside the cage, so too could Stout at any given moment.
Saturday night in Anaheim, he’ll act as a 155-pound “Welcome Wagon” and it won’t be a fruit basket he looks to deliver to Taylor in his divisional debut.