In his last Octagon appearance, Ricardo Lamas proved a point—one that his upcoming opponent, submission ace Hatsu Hioki, should be sure to take note of heading into their Friday night showdown at UFC on FX 4.

The point?  That Hioki won’t be the only threat on the ground when the two meet on June 22 at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, N.J.

You see, Lamas submitted Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Cub Swanson via an arm-triangle choke that garnered Submission of the Night honors at the UFC’s inaugural UFC on Fox event last November.  Not bad for a brown belt whose previous submission victories came in his first and second professional outings.

Lamas (top) sinks in an arm-triangle choke to submit Cub Swanson (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

The 30-year-old honed his submission skills under the tutelage of 2007 World Nogi champion Daniel Valverde. So, should his fight with Hioki go to the ground, the Chicago native, who splits his training time between the Top Notch gym in Illinois and MMA Masters in Florida, will be well prepared.

“It’s not something that I’m scared of or worried about,” Lamas admitted to The MMA Corner when asked about Hioki’s ground game. “I have lots of black belts that I train with every day in Miami—my jiu-jitsu coach, Daniel Valverde, is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Nogi World champion and I get to roll with him everyday. So, if I can stay out of danger when I’m rolling with him, then I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to do the same against Hioki.”

Aside from his ground game, Lamas has a very underestimated wrestling pedigree. He’s a NCAA Division III All-American from Elmhurst College, and it’s his wrestling that he feels will be the difference in the fight.

“I think my wrestling is better than his,” stated Lamas. “I think I hold the advantage there in the fact that I’ll be able to dictate where the fight goes. If I don’t want the fight on the ground, it won’t get there; but if I do, then I’ll be able to use my wrestling to get the fight to the ground.”

Lamas (top) attacks Swanson (James Law/Heavy MMA)

Prior to his arrival in the UFC, Lamas competed on the blue mat of the WEC as a lightweight.  There, he went 4-2, including a win over Bart Palaszewski and losses to Yuri Alcantara and Danny Castillo.  However, when the Team Top Notch fighter migrated to the UFC, he shifted his sights to the featherweight division.

“I probably should’ve been here my entire career,” Lamas admitted. “Lightweight wasn’t a very hard cut for me to do. I was able to eat whatever I wanted, so I wasn’t dieting very strictly, so it’s made me become a little more strict in that area. Along with the dieting, I think eating healthy has made me a better athlete all around.”

The move has been a successful one thus far, with Lamas first scoring a TKO finish of Matt Grice and following that performance up with his submission of Swanson.  Those wins are slowly inching Lamas up the ladder towards title contention, but his opponent, Hioki, was already sitting at the very top of that ladder.  Surprisingly, Hioki declined an opportunity to fight current champ Jose Aldo, instead opting to further develop his skills before making a run at the championship. With Hioki’s status as a top contender, title implications for both fighters could rest on the outcome of Friday’s contest.

“I’m not even looking past Friday night yet,” Lamas confessed. “What happens after the fight will happen, and I don’t want to look past Hioki for one second. I want to give him the credit he deserves and focus 100% on him.”

Ricardo Lamas (KO Reps)

While it’s clear that he respects his opponent, there may be nothing he is more proud of than his heritage. It’s become tradition to display both the Cuban and Mexican flags on his fight shorts—his dad is Cuban, while his mom is Mexican.

“I was raised to be proud of who I am and where I came from, from both my mother and my father, and I’ve gotten tremendous support from the Hispanic community, especially in Chicago. If you look at a lot of my sponsors, most of them are Mexican-owned businesses. They’re not huge corporations or anything like that, they’re smaller mom-and-pop owned businesses in Chicago, and they show me tremendous support and I really thank them for all that they’ve done for me.”

The road to a title starts Friday night for the fighting pride of his community. He’s once again out to prove a point, not only to those in the MMA community, but to himself as well.

“I’m really excited for the fight. I think it’s a great opportunity because a lot of people see him as one of the top featherweights,” Lamas said, adding that beating a guy ranked as high as Hioki “would just reassure my feelings that I am one of the best featherweights in the world also, and that I deserve to be where I’m at.”

Ricardo would like to thank his teams, Top Notch MMA in Villa Park, Ill., and MMA Masters in Miami. He would also like to thank his family, his father and brother who help him out a lot, his friends and fans. Finally, he would like to thank his sponsors: Headrush, Venum, Mi Tierra Mexican Restaurant, SMS Audio, KO Reps, Supermercados La Chiquita foods and Reiman’s Harley-Davidson in Kewanee, Ill. And he would like to thank everyone who has shown support for him since day one. Follow Lamas on Twitter: @RicardoLamasMMA

Top Photo: Ricardo Lamas, emotional after defeating Cub Swanson at UFC on Fox 1 (James Law/Heavy MMA)

About The Author

Paige Berger

Relatively new to the sport of MMA, Paige is a life long athlete. She attended the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid, N.Y., where she was a pioneer member of the women's ice hockey program. She also excelled in softball and soccer before deciding to focus on hockey. Born and raised in New York, she is an avid Yankees fan. Currently residing in Las Vegas, a move she made after falling in love with MMA while training at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., she is currently studying public relations and advertising at UNLV.