Robbie Lawler evolving and thriving in his second UFC stint
“Robbie was such a talent to where he didn’t really trust a lot of other people,” Lawler’s coach, Matt Pena, told USA TODAY Sports. “Now, we just tell him what to do and he does it. Before, he was always a little critical of what he was going to do and why he was going to do it.”
After bouncing around gyms and transferring to the UFC from the now-defunct Strikeforce promotion as a 3-5 middleweight, Lawler (22-9 MMA, 7-3 UFC) is lighter and has won three in a row as a welterweight, with knockouts in two of the fights.
Saturday, the veteran gets his biggest chance yet to realize his potential when he meets Johny Hendricks (15-2 MMA, 10-2 UFC) for the welterweight belt in the headliner of UFC 171 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, which airs live on pay-per-view (10 p.m. ET).
The southpaws will compete for a title left vacant when Georges St-Pierre stepped away from the sport this year.
To Pena and Lawler’s longtime manager, Monte Cox, it’s no accident the fighter is on a roll after finding stability at Florida’s famed American Top Team. They say Lawler, 31, no longer takes for granted the abilities that brought him to the UFC as a talented 20-year-old knockout artist.
“He’s never let the fame or notoriety get to his head,” Pena says. “He’s the type of guy that as soon as the fight’s over, he’s back in the gym. He’s not letting his body blow out of proportion. He’s just a complete professional.”
Lawler’s innate punching power, which sounded like gunshots and brought curious onlookers, according to a chronicle of his former team, is now balanced. There’s a focus on his craft that includes submissions, wrestling and a sparring schedule that keeps miles off his body.
“All of a sudden, you’ve still got that knockout power,” Cox says. “He’s sparring, so he’s finding more openings and creating more openings, and his wrestling and jiu-jitsu have come up a couple of notches to support the striking. You improve a couple of areas of his game, and all of a sudden he’s become the complete package.”
Paradoxically, it’s those broader skills that make Lawler more capable of landing his concussive left hand, Pena said. and Lawler is always looking for the knockout.
“Now, there’s tons of athletes, and a handful of guys really have that mean streak, that are real fighters,” Cox says. “A lot of folks are here for the fame and the money now. Rob is a throwback.”
Goddamn im so pumped for this fight. I really wanna see Lawler peak his career with a ufc title.
Imma Hendricks fan and think he should've got the nod in the gsp fight but he's not fighting a point fighter now. Just as fast as he can put someone's lights out, so can Lawler.
Robbie definitely has a chance against Hendricks but it largely depends on what Hendricks's gameplan is. It's safe to say that Hendricks is the better grappler and will likely determine where the bout takes place. If he strikes using a low risk strategy, spends plenty of time wearing on Lawler and beating him up on the fence, he can transition to takedowns and ride out a comfortable decision or late TKO stoppage. I know he's a finisher, but this is a title fight and he does NOT want to be 0 and 2.
Having said that, if Robbie can avoid being backed up and make it a kickboxing match then he absolutely had the tools to beat Hendricks. Hendricks will be comfortable striking, and will absolutely believe in his chin and his power. It's not like he will panic if he has more difficulty than he expected in taking Lawler down. This has the potential to play into Lawler's hands a little bit.
Hendricks's nuclear tipped left hand gets its power by him launching his entire body weight into it. It generates vicious impact but he's really exposed, chin swinging in the breeze, and often off-balance. He's gotten away with it thus far in his career because of its fearsome reputation. His opponents generally either see it coming and get the hell out of the way or eat it and nap. No one has really attempted to slip it and punish him while he's exposed.
Robbie has a tailor made counter for Hendricks that he has used successfully before: the outside slip to lead uppercut. He used it against Matt Lindland as the first punch in the 3-punch combo that dropped him before finishing him with a Flying R-Bomb. If he can catch Hendricks as he's launching himself he can walk him straight into a nasty uppercut that he won't see coming. He'll also have a dominant outside angle on Hendricks and can tee off while Hendricks has to turn and face him.
Looking at these guys respective skillsets it's probably Hendricks's fight to lose. But Lawler is no ones gimme.
I think we might be overlooking Lawlers defensive wrestling. Going by what we've seen I think Hendricks is the better grappler but I think Lawler might surprise us with even more improvement with his grappling like Gus stuffing Jones tds and getting his own tds. Just imagine if Robbie goes out there and actually shows he get tds of his own too.
Hendricks can't be as careless as in the gsp fight cuz Lawler is gonna let it all go on Saturday.
"DO YOU THINK I'M JUST GOING TO SIT THERE AND LET YOU KILL ME JON???"
OT: Don't wanna derail this thread. Im just saying with this big turn around in Lawlers career I wouldn't write off any other surprises. It will be such an awesome and very well deserved moment for him if he pulls this off.
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