The year is 2014 and Robbie Lawler is the UFC Welterweight Champion. Yes you read that correctly folks! “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler has finally become a UFC Champion.
In the main event of UFC 181, Robbie Lawler was able to take a split decision win over Johny “Big Rigg” Hendricks to become the first American Top Team fighter to be a UFC Champion. Whilst the rematch went to the end bell like the first there was some subtle differences which saw the fight edge towards Lawler.
Lawler came out of the gate like a race horse and threw everything he could at Hendricks in the opening minutes of the first round. Hendricks showed his toughness and his ability to take a shot and turned the round with some takedowns and top control. And whilst Hendricks wrestling was much more on display in the rematch, it was also in my eyes his inability to secure takedowns at will which cost him the fight.
Hendricks repeatedly shot for takedowns throughout but Lawler’s much improved takedown defence left the former champ often looking confused as to how to take Lawler down and leaving his head in an exposed position allowing Lawler to land devastating elbows and punches.
In such a closely competed fight there is always an unknown when it comes to judges decisions and this fight certainly split opinions across the MMA community on social media. But when the dust had settled and I had given myself some time to comprehend that Robbie Lawler is a UFC Champion, I must admit, the feeling was pretty awesome.
For those of you unfamiliar with the new Welterweight Champion Robbie Lawler I just wanted to put some backbone around his longstanding history with the UFC and just how hard he worked to get to where he is now.
Rewind your timelines back to 10th May 2002, way before MMA was the cool and trendy thing to do and Robbie Lawler was making his UFC debut against Aaron Riley. Lawler went 4-3 in the promotion leaving on the back of two losses on the bounce to Nick Diaz and the late, great Evan Tanner.
UFC fans would then have to wait a whole 9 years to see “Ruthless” return to the octagon at UFC 157. And what a statement he made on his return. A vicious knockout victory over Josh Koscheck, followed by a spectacular head kick to put away Bobby Green and then a superb performance against Rory MacDonald to put himself straight into the Welterweight title frame.
But there was a certain man standing in his way of achieving his dreams of claiming UFC gold, Johny “Big Rigg” Hendricks. UFC 171 produced one of the fights of the year candidates when Lawler and Hendricks battled back and forth for the full twenty five minute duration, with Hendricks coming out on top. After the dust had settled and we had just began to get over just how entertaining that bout had been it was Lawler who was dragging himself straight back to the gym to improve his game and also get prepared for his next fight.
Jake “The Juggernaut” Ellenberger may have been a back step in respect of rankings but in a way this posed even more danger to Lawler’s title aspirations, given that a loss would have completely thrown him off track. But it didn’t stop Lawler’s focus as he absolutely dominated Ellenberger and stopped him in the third round.
Lawler was then offered Matt Brown as his next opponent and the fight was agreed and signed to take place in July, which would be Lawler’s third bout of the year. A five round number one contender slugfest was what we was promised and these two veterans did not let us down, but for Lawler his speed and advantage in the stand-up shone through, giving him the nod on all judges’ scorecards and a unanimous decision win over Brown, who himself was aiming for a title shot.
So it’s been a long, tough road for “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler but he has finally been able to realise his dreams in a sport which has moved on so much since his debut fight in 2001. Like a fine wine, Lawler has matured with age and now at 32 years old is living proof that there is plenty of fight in the old dog yet!