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Lorenz Larkin goes from nearly being cut to a possible welterweight ranking

When Lorenz Larkin lost to Derek Brunson on Aug. 30, it was his third straight loss, a number that very often means the end of someone's UFC career. But UFC allowed Larkin to restart at the third weight class of his career, and now he's got two straight knockouts, as well as a past win over champion Robbie Lawler.

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Lorenz Larkin is the perfect example of what a thin line it can be between stardom and obscurity in the often unforgiving world of MMA.

With his win over Santiago Ponzinibbio (21-3) on Saturday night in Hollywood, Fla., Larkin may break into the top 15 contenders for the welterweight title. Holding a prior win over champion Robbie Lawler three years ago, there is talk of how quickly he can climb to the top.

But somewhat like Lawler's career, Larkin's road started high with impressive flashy wins using his Muay Thai to garner notice in Strikeforce. Like Lawler, he nearly hit rock bottom before recovering to start to become what people expected him to be from the very start.

Moving from light heavyweight, where Larkin (16-4, 1 no contest) won his first 12 fights, to middleweight did not work out for the better. While he opened with his win over Lawler, he won only one of his next five fights in his new weight class. When he lost to Derek Brunson on Aug. 30, it was that magic third loss in a row, a number that often means the end of one's UFC tenure.

Larkin, instead, asked to move to welterweight. He was given John Howard on the Jan. 18 show in Boston as a first opponent, and his UFC career most likely was on the line.

"I don't want to say they looked out for me, but they stuck their neck out for me," said Larkin after his second straight knockout win. "If I lost my last fight, I'd have probably gotten the ax. I appreciate them for pretty much giving me a second chance and I'm here to make them think they didn't make a stupid move. I'm trying to turn my career around."

Ponzinibbio proved a tough nut to crack, as even though Larkin was landing more, his Argentinean opponent was taking every shot. Ponzinibbio was starting to get the better of things midway through the second round. But Larkin knocked him down and started landing a number of punches on the ground. When Ponzinibbio got up, he wasn't all the way there and referee Herb Dean stopped it at the 3:07 mark.

"He hit me with a pretty good leg kick," said Larkin at the post-fight press conference. "I felt it. I feel it right now. Other than that, I didn't get hit with a big shot, thankfully. He brung it, just like I thought he was going to. I was happy UFC gave us a chance to be in the co-main event and we weren't duds out there. It worked out the best for me, and not as much for him, but something for him because we got the bonuses.:

Both men got $50,000 bonuses for the best fight of the night.

Larkin could right now start a campaign for Lawler, given his prior win, but he downplayed that triumph for now.

"You know, that was the past," he said. "That's what I said. If I get it (a high ranking or title shot), I'm going to earn it. I don't want to talk mess. He (Lawler) earned his spot the right way. He came in through Strikeforce and beasted through the division, and that's why he's on top. I'm going to earn my shot. If he still has it (the title), it makes for a good story. Until then, I'm going to keep working my way to the top."

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