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TJ Laramie may be 7-2 and a featherweight champion at the age of 20, but the first title defense of his career won’t come easy.

In Joao Luis Nogueira at TKO 42, he is facing an opponent who is on a 10-fight win streak, is undefeated at featherweight and has 10 years of experience over Laramie.

Nogueira may be the toughest fight of Laramie’s career, but he’s not fazed by the challenge. If anything, he relishes it.

While he acknowledges that Nogueira’s ground game is excellent, he is a “poor wrestler” who has trouble with getting fights to the mat. Laramie sees a path to victory in avoiding his takedown attempts then taking advantage of him in the championship rounds.

“He’s definitely a guy that gets heavy [towards the third round], his hands start dropping,” Laramie told MMASucka when making a prediction for the TKO 42 main event. “I know I’ve got cardio and footwork for days … at 33 years old, he doesn’t have too many physical advantages over me.”

In Nogueira’s TKO debut, he grinded out a decision against Alex Morgan, and when watching that fight, that’s when Laramie took note of the poor cardio his opponent displayed.

However, Nogueira fared much better against Morgan than Laramie did, given that his only loss in TKO came against the Montreal native. But Laramie has moved past that defeat rather quickly and doesn’t acknowledge it as such.

“It was stopped very early, anyone who saw that fight knew what it was about, so I don’t really consider that a loss,” said Laramie when reflecting on that night at TKO 38. He also said he was “very emotional in that fight, which led me to the situation that I got in” and that he’s become a much smarter fighter since then.

If Laramie were to emerge victorious against Nogueira, he would love to run it back with Morgan, even though he needs a win first and is injury prone.

As things stand, Laramie is already a can’t-miss prospect at featherweight. Developing a rivalry with Morgan would make him that much more compelling and beating him would leave no doubt as to the best fighter at 145 pounds.

But as of now, Laramie’s focus is entirely on Nogueira. He is cognizant of the threat that he poses, which is why he flew out to Vegas for Jeremy Kennedy’s training camp back in January. Like Nogueira, Kennedy is a well-rounded jiu-jitsu fighter and sparring with him should prepare him well for his upcoming fight.

More than anything, though, Laramie recognizes what a win at TKO 42 could do for his career. “A win over a recognized opponent like Nogueira really cements my status as a top 145 prospect for the UFC … it really promotes myself. They don’t have too many Canadian stars at this point.

I’m the number one prospect at this weight in Canada, if not the world.”

View the original article on MMA Sucka: TJ Laramie Wants to Prove he’s the Best Featherweight Prospect in the World