They went at each other for five rounds in what was perhaps the closest fight of 2014. Now they get to do it once again on Saturday night at the main event of UFC 181, and we’re pretty sure they won’t disappoint once again.
After those five back and forth rounds at UFC 171, Johny Hendricks took home the UFC welterweight belt which everyone felt was already his even before the bout began. Four months earlier, Hendricks did the improbable. He took the legend off Georges St. Pierre and handed the longtime welterweight champion a beating he had never experienced before. But in a shocking split decision, the judges awarded St. Pierre a controversial win which would later push him to walk away from the sport and vacate the title.
Although Robbie Lawler lost the bout, he looked like a winner because he successfully revived a career that was already given up for dead a couple of years back. Losing by a razor-thin margin to Hendricks didn’t stop Lawler’s resurgence, he came back stronger and destroyed Jake Ellenberger before beating up Matt Brown to cement his status as number one contender and set up this rematch that will surely rival their first encounter for 2014 Fight of The Year honors.
Hunger versus Power
Robbie Lawler has been fighting since he was 19 but has remained the same vicious striker inside the Octagon. He’s fought the who’s who of the past and present in the sport, yet he’s never won a title since 2008 when he was the EliteXC Middleweight champion. Although all UFC fighters can claim that they are hungry for the belt, Lawler’s long and hard journey have made him the hungriest lion in the UFC den.
If it’s hunger that will drive Lawler to the title, it will be power that will prevent him from taking it. Big Rig is one of the very few welterweights who truly possesses that one-punch knockout power . If Hendricks can land that sledgehammer left hand, Lawler could be in deep trouble. But what makes Hendricks even more dangerous is his wrestling pedigree. Yes, Hendricks was a former DIvision 1 NCAA wrestling Champion so If this fight is going to the ground, the champion should have the clear advantage.
But if Hendricks decides to keep the fight on his feet , expect Lawler to grab the upperhand with his crisp and powerful boxing combinations. The Ruthless One is perhaps the most dynamic striker in the weight class and he’s added a full arsenal of kicks to complete his striking game. Aside from owning heavy hands, Lawler’s ruthless nature makes him a very dangerous opponent for Hendricks.
Who Takes the Strap?
It’s hard to predict the winner of this bout because as we saw in the first fight, these are two evenly matched strikers. We all know that Hendricks won the fight in the fifth round as Lawler was totally exhausted and Hendricks landed a late takedown. Without those two crucial factors ,It could have easily been Lawler who’s wearing that belt around his waist.
Remember that Lawler fought Hendricks mano-e-mano for five straight rounds. He took Johny’s big punches and continued to move forward. Hendricks suffered a torn biceps after their first bout and it’s what kept him out of action for quite some time. That injury has healed, but the surgery has left us with more questions than answers. If Hendricks cannot take Lawler down we might see a new champion crowned on Saturday. But regardless of who takes it,this one’s a must see. The first fight was a barn burner and it’s hard to imagine that the rematch won’t be as compelling.