Friday, August 19, 2022

Stephen Thompson Breaks Down Robbie Lawler-Tyron Woodley

You can bet Stephen Thompson will be front-and-center this Saturday night in Atlanta when Robbie Lawler defends his welterweight title against Tyron Woodley at UFC 201.

Thompson, fresh off wins over Johny Hendricks and Rory MacDonald, is viewed by many as the next challenger to the title.

So, who does “Wonderboy” see leaving the “ATL” with the belt?

Here’s his offering on the fight from….and spoiler alert, Thompson is picking Lawler via decision:

This weekend, the most important fight in the welterweight division will go down between the champ, Robbie Lawler, and the No. 4 guy, Tyron Woodley.

The importance is obviously due to the title involvement, but for me, the winner will likely indicate who will be my next opponent. Bearing that in mind, I’ve decided to make my first Champions article a breakdown of that bout.

I’m predicting that Lawler will come out with the win, and there are several reasons why. Let’s start with the fact that Tyron hasn’t fought in a really long time. That’s going to present a significant amount of ring rust, whether it be physical or mental, because any way you slice it, ring rust is a very real phenomenon.
Fight Schedule

When you measure out their schedule activity, the difference is huge. Robbie last fought seven months ago. Tyron last fought 17 months ago.

The question you have to ask is who benefits most from their time off?

Tyron has had lots of time to heal his body up from any injuries he might have had. He’s had time to go back and work on things he and his team might have felt needed some extra attention, like his cardio. That’s what I’m kind of anxious to see. How well did he manage all that time off?

Tyron is an incredibly explosive guy, but that’s dependent on what round he’s in. As the fight wears on, he tires out. It really depends on which Tyron shows up. You have the one who goes out and finishes guys in the first round, and then you have the one who fought Kelvin Gastelum, who just tried to pick him apart.

Robbie, on the other hand, stayed active, but he’s been through a lot of wars in a relatively short span of time. In two and a half years, he’s put in just under 28 rounds of straight slobberknocker action, and the majority of that saw fairly even exchanges with his opponents. In the case of the Condit fight, we saw him outlanded nearly two to one.

He was rocked in that fight, too, and to be completely honest, I thought Condit won it.

I do think Robbie has given himself enough time in between fights to recover and rejuvenate himself, but it’s one of those factors that could change in an instant. We’ll just have to see how he handles one of Tyron’s monster punches. I think he’ll have the edge in cardio and in comfort. I say “comfort” in the sense that Tyron’s been inactive for quite a while, so he may come in overanxious due to that and the fact that a title is on the line.

Robbie’s got this crazy mentality that basically says, “I’ll break you before I quit.” He’s got the heart of a lion and is willing to stand and trade, punch for punch. He’s someone who breaks people mentally, and we really got to see that in the MacDonald fight.

Rory almost knocked him out in the second or third round. He was really teeing off in there, and for a while, I thought we were going to see a new champ. The next thing you know, here comes this crazy explosion from Lawler, and from there, it was his fight. You could just see the lights in Rory’s eyes dying out.

We’ve only seen Tyron tested past the third round once, and it resulted in a loss to Nate Marquardt. We don’t know what kind of durability he’ll have, what his mettle is like. This could be a good test of that, but for me, he’s kind of an unknown commodity in that department.

Tyron’s a great wrestler with a killer blast double. He’s got a similar style to Johny Hendricks, but he’s more explosive. If you look at Robbie’s past fights, you know he has great takedown defense, and when he does get taken down, he’s excellent at getting back up. He’s got strong hips and is a phenomenal wrestler. It’s easy to lose sight of that fact because he uses his wrestling more to stay on his feet.

For somebody like Woodley, who uses a lot of energy in his strikes and takedowns, there’s a very good chance of him tiring out long before Lawler, whose bread and butter is five-round fights. I think he knows that, so I believe he’ll be very cautious and will be looking to time Robbie to get him down to the ground.

The striking is going to be where the winner of this fight is made. Lawler is very good at keeping the fight standing, but he doesn’t have the best movement. What he lacks in movement, he makes up for in grit. He stands in front of you and bangs it out. Caution is a thought process that doesn’t seem to fully register with him.

Tyron has great movement. He might not throw as many combinations, but he’s very, very fast and packs a lot of power. He’s excellent at covering the difference and blasting you in the face before you know what’s happened, and as we’ve seen numerous times in the past, Robbie is quite adept at getting caught by shots like that.

In Lawler’s fight with Condit, we saw Carlos manage the distance so well, popping him with the one-two and staggering him, but Robbie withstood the storm, and that’s basically his M.O. He weathers the storm while blasting back.

Where Robbie wins this fight is by keeping Woodley at the end of his jab and by keeping his weight low. Rory gave us the blueprint on that when he basically schooled Tyron with that super-effective jab. If he can do what Rory was able to do, he’ll have this fight locked.

What Tyron needs to do to win the fight is to throw a lot of feints. Whenever you throw feints, you get your opponent to react to those feints. Once they start reacting, you take advantage of the openings they leave. If he’s quick and tricky, Tyron can absolutely see a victory by getting Robbie to run into one of those big rights.

Tyron has the power to put anybody to sleep. Anybody. If Robbie gets cracked with one of those, it’s going to be over. I know he’s got incredible recovery time in a fight, but not from one of those shots from Woodley.
The Teammate Aspect

Most teammates share a bond, and have difficulties with the idea of fighting each other. That’s not the case here. These guys are teammates in a pretty loose sense of the word. Woodley trains at American Top Team, but his own ATT affiliate gym in Missouri, where Robbie is down in Florida at the main headquarters in Coconut Creek. It’s difficult to judge if there’s enough of a relationship between them that might present a crisis of conscience of any sort.

My last opponent was Rory MacDonald, and we have a relationship that stems from our time at Tristar, but when you look at the fight game, everybody has that goal to be the champion. When we faced each other, it was about that goal and nothing else.

It doesn’t mean we can’t be friends afterward. If I went out in that fight and didn’t give it 100 percent, it would have been disrespectful to him. It came down to the best man winning, and I was in it to win, just like he was. So I gave him hell.

I saw that Lawler said in an interview that he didn’t view Woodley as his teammate, and that got me thinking. Maybe that’s the mindset he needs to be in to give it 100 percent. Maybe he needs to look at Woodley as an outsider trying to take something from him. I’m not really sure what their relationship was like before this fight was set, but it’s something to consider.

The day of my fight with Rory, I didn’t look at him as a buddy of mine. He wasn’t the guy I’d trained with many times. It was strictly business. It was down to me or him getting to the top of the ladder.

I know he got pretty banged up during the fight and ended up breaking his nose again, but we were all fine and dandy afterward, and I’d like to think that if Robbie and Tyron had any sort of relationship before this fight, that they’ll also find themselves on friendly ground again afterwards.

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