Lorenz Larkin joined the Strikeforce light-heavyweight roster in early 2011. He did so with a perfect, 9-0 record—a streak that included six dazzling, first-round knockouts. Needless to say, he immediately stood out as one of the organization's most promising young talents.
Larkin's potential became even clearer when he picked up wins in his first three Strikeforce bouts, all of which occurred in the organization's Challengers series. And though he was knocked out by Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal in his next bout, that verdict would be overturned when King Mo tested positive for Drostanolone. Better still, Larkin was able to bounce back from the hiccup with a successful drop to middleweight, famously defeating current UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler in the process. That meant that, by the time the UFC had begun closing Strikeforce's doors in 2013, Larkin still possessed a technically flawless record. As such, his being given a shot in the UFC was an obvious choice.
Unfortunately, that's where things began to fall apart for the Strikeforce alumnus. In his first fight as a member of the UFC middleweight division, he lost a tough decision to Francis Carmont. And though he was able to bounce back with a nice win over Chris Camozzi, Larkin then stumbled into an ugly, three-fight losing streak, coming up short against Brad Tavares, Costas Philippou and Derek Brunson. Though his potential remained irrefutable, it was becoming clear that he was no match for even the bottom half of the middleweight top-15. So, the former light heavyweight packed his bags, and took another trip south—this time, settling in the 170-pound welterweight division.
This catches us up to the iteration of Larkin we're familiar with today—the venomous welterweight finisher who spent 2015 shutting the lights off on John Howard and Santiago Ponzinibbio. Once again showing glimmers of tremendous promise, the 29-year-old will look to make it 3-0 at welterweight when he takes on fellow prospect Albert Tumenov on the main card of UFC 195 this Saturday night.
Of course, this will not be an easy fight for Larkin. For all the potential he appears to have as a welterweight, he'll enter this bout with the 16-2 Tumenov as a near +200 underdog. That is to say that, as far as the odds makers are concerned, he will probably lose.
That said, the odds are only worth so much—ask Holly Holm, ask Nate Diaz, ask Alistair Overeem, all of whom have recently betrayed the odds. No fighter should ever be counted out, least of all one as undeniably talented as Larkin. On Saturday night, he'll have all the tools to spring the upset on his dangerous Balkar opponent. And should he do so, he may well find himself in the perilous waters of the UFC welterweight top-15—home to sharks like Carlos Condit, Tyron Woodley, Rory MacDonald, and Johny Hendricks.
Now, his recent losses at middleweight do suggest he'll have a tough time amongst such talented fighters. It's difficult, after all, to imagine a fighter who was knocked silly by a middling middleweight like Philippou doing much better against a fighter like Hendricks or Woodley. Really, it's easy to imagine Larkin's welterweight run coming to a close at UFC 195.
Then again, let's take a trip back to 2012. Robbie Lawler, a hot-and-cold Strikeforce middleweight who was fresh off a loss to Larkin at the time, was just re-entering the UFC. To suggest, at that juncture, that he would rip through the UFC welterweight division to become a truly ferocious champion would have gotten you committed. So, while Larkin's reaching the welterweight mountaintop is certainly a long shot, the precedent for such unlikely rises is certainly there. Look no further than the current divisional champ for proof of this.
Of course, Larkin's continued rise depends entirely on his performance against Tumenov this weekend. And if he does take out Tumenov, his reaching a title shot will depend on his traversing the murderer's row that is the welterweight top-10. In advance of his UFC 195 bout, however, one thing is quite clear: the former Strikeforce light heavyweight finally appears to be realizing his long-apparent potential as a UFC welterweight. And while he's still some distance from the divisional pinnacle, it may not be long before he finds himself in Joe Duffy's shoes; those eye-grabbing kicks of a streaking fighter with a win over the current champ.