It's been a profitable if somewhat strange year for Canadian fighter Sam (Hands of Stone) Stout.
Stout won a decision over (Handsome) Matt Wiman at UFC 97 in April, picking up a US$70,000 fight of the night bonus in the process. The 25-year-old lightweight from London, Ont., was slated to meet Phillipe Nover next at a card Sept. 16 in Oklahoma City but the mixed martial arts bout was called off when Nover had a seizure in the locker-room.
He didn't get to fight but Stout got paid anyway, with the UFC throwing in a win bonus for good measure.
"It's been a pretty good year financially. It's been the best I've had in my fight career, probably with the least amount of fights," Stout said in an interview. "So that's kind of strange, but I'm not complaining about it."
On Saturday, Stout (15-5-1) looks to get back to his winning ways inside the cage when he takes on Joe Lauzon at UFC 108 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
While he hasn't fought in more than eight months, Stout sees the glass as half-full coming out of the Nover bout cancellation.
"I did the hard part, the training camp. Eight weeks of hard training, so I don't feel like I'm coming into this fight rusty," he said. "If anything, I feel almost like I'm more prepared. I've basically done two training camps for one fight, so I think Joe Lauzon is going to have his hands full with me."
Stout thought he might meet Nover down the line, but likes Lauzon as an opponent.
"I feel like they made it right with me," he said of the UFC. "They paid me the full winning purse. And they gave me a step-up in competition and a step-up in terms of where they put me on the card. So I think this is going to a great opportunity for me and I feel pretty good about the whole situation."
The Stout-Lauzon 155-pound fight is listed third on the main card, below the main event featuring light-heavyweights Rashad Evans and Thiago Silva and the welterweight bout between Paul (Semtex) Daley and Dustin Hazelett.
Lauzon (17-4) is a graduate of Season 5 of "The Ultimate Fighter," who has won five of his six UFC outings. The lone loss was to Kenny Florian in April 2008 in Colorado, with Lauzon acknowledging later the altitude got to him.
The 25-year-old Lauzon has a powerful left hook and is adept at getting his opponents to the ground, often via a trip, where he can use his submission skills. The heel hook is a favourite submission
"I think he's going to be my toughest fight so far, to be honest with you," said Stout, who likes to stand and bang. "He's got an interesting style, a little bit unorthodox and difficult to train for because he's not a typical guy. He goes for a lot of interesting submissions that most guys don't go for, and from strange positions. And his striking is kind of wild but those guys can be dangerous.
"Most of my training partners are pretty technical strikers. So when you get up against a guy who's unorthodox like that, it can throw you off a little bit."
Stout has never been knocked out and only submitted twice, once in his pro debut in June 2003 and the other time by Florian in June 2006.
So despite being known as a standup fighter, he can defend himself on the ground.
"A big part of the reason I've earned that title as being a standup fighter is because that's how I like to fight," he explained. "Just because I don't end up on the ground in most of my fights, it doesn't mean it's because I can't (fight there), it's because I don't want to.
"The main reason I do this sport is because it's fun for me and I just find it more fun to stand up and throw punches and kicks."
Stout didn't get a chance to do either against Nover.
His hands were wrapped and he had started to warm up in the locker-room when he got the news about his opponent's illness about one hour before he was slated to fight.
"And Joe Silva, the matchmaker for the UFC, came in and said 'I've got good news and bad news for you. The good news is you're getting paid, the bad news is you're not fighting.' It was really a surreal experience," Stout said. "I kind of felt like I was dreaming or something. It didn't sink in right away. But when it did, it was a pretty disappointing feeling after all the hard work, to not to able to fight."
There was good news in that Nover recovered quickly that night.
Stout returned to the gym the next week, but not in full training camp mode. He could not be more prepared this time, he insists.
"I didn't have to recover from any injuries, I was able to keep my momentum going from the last training camp, carry it through right into this training camp. So I really feel better physically and mentally than I ever have for a fight going into this one. So I think you're going to see the best Sam Stout you've ever seen in this fight against Joe Lauzon."
Stout had his hands full against Wiman, who proved to be a tough customer. Stout dropped him with a liver shot in the second but Wiman didn't fold and he came on strong in a third round.
"I might have come into the third round a little too relaxed, thinking that I just had to go in for the kill," Stout acknowledged. "He came out as hard as he did in the first round. I've got to give a lot of credit to Matt Wiman in that fight. . . . He's a hell of a fighter."
Apart from a bloody nose and sore shin, he emerged from the Wiman fight relatively unscathed. His leg was left a little tender from a kick following up the liver shot. Stout was trying to punish the body further but Wiman got his elbow up.
"It put a nice little dent in my shin for a little while but those are just little minor bumps and bruises," he said. "No serious injuries, no broke bones. No injuries that took me out of training for very long."
It was a big win all round, coming on the main card at a soldout Bell Centre in Montreal and sandwiched between fights showcasing former light-heavyweight champion Chuck (The Iceman) Liddell and middleweight title-holder Anderson Silva.
"Everything just kind of went my way that night," said Stout, who was jubilant in his post-fight interview in the cage.
"I still stand by what I said. It was probably the best night of my life -- to date," he added.
Lauzon's younger brother Dan is also on the card. He meets lightweight Cole Miller in an undercard fight to be shown on Spike TV. Joe Lauzon beat Miller in the TUF 5 quarter-finals.
NOTES -- UFC president Dana White says the UFC "will be the biggest sport in the world by 2020." White made the prediction in a commentary for the Las Vegas Sun. "People were saying I was a lunatic 10 years ago when we first got this going, but the stuff we're working on right now on so many levels is mind-boggling," he added. White notes the UFC is currently on "some form of television" in more than 175 countries. "We're all human beings and we all 'get' fighting."