By: S. Davis
There are a few factors I’m paying attention to in this welterweight main event. Initially, how do you weigh Robbie Lawler’s endurance and pace in accordance with Tyron Woodley’s propensity to gas after two-to-three rounds? Woodley will have to knock Lawler out in the opening ten minutes if he’s able to capture the welterweight title. Taking into consideration that he’s been on the shelf since January 2015 where’s his cardio going to be? I’m not sure he’ll be invigorated in the later rounds and his history dictates that to be the case. He’ll have to land that thundering right hand of his early and often to get out the cage with his soul.
Secondly, when are the wars that Lawler’s been in going to reveal themselves? It’s only a matter of time isn’t it? The two fights with Johny Hendricks, Rory MacDonald and Carlos Condit (a fight I felt Condit won 3-2 or 4-1 but that’s just me) are eventually going to age the current champ on one of these evenings. They have to at some point but maybe since he’s the taker of souls he’ll rule the 170 lb. division until he bores of ravaging opponents – and surviving the taxing beatings they dish out.
Lawler is an impressive fighter, make no mistake, but I worry about the toll on his body. Award-winning fights aside, he takes too much damage for his title run to end in any other way than on a night where it seems like he fell of a cliff once the cage door closes. I don’t watch mixed martial arts to see blood or destruction of limbs and bodies – I ONLY watch for the matchup of several disciplines – yet on the night when Lawler is ultimately bested, it’s going to be a tough viewing experience.
How can Woodley emerge with the gold trinket? As someone with a wrestling pedigree, lately, he uses that skill defensively as he’s found comfort as a striker. He will revert to offensive wrestling once his other tools have been sheathed (the bout with Rory MacDonald at UFC 174).
He can win by taking the action to Lawler early while mixing in wrestling. If he’s able to score points on takedowns – in the center of the cage – and engage in some “lay and pray” (and the booing it shall spawn) he can possibly conserve some energy for the championship rounds. He has to defend in a more technical fashion than by just relying on punches to keep Lawler at distance. It would also be in his best interest to circle away when retreating as opposed to doing so in a straight line. It’s a bad habit of his (refer to the losses to MacDonald and Nate Marquardt) and he sets himself up for a tough evening if he relies on those same defensive shortcomings. His defensive footwork has to be crisp and it’s paramount for him to keep his head moving, a lot. As well as retreating in lines as opposed to angles, his head movement leaves a lot to be desired; it’s a stationary target. With Lawler across the cage hunting for a finish…his defense must be light years ahead of where it was.
It sounds like I’m picking a winner, huh?
I’m not really one for fight predictions but every now and then I’ll indulge. My strength is fight analysis laced with an overall view of the bout or the card at-large. If this piece is well-received – Why would it not be? Ha. – then maybe I’ll post my picks going forward. I’m only picking the fights I find most interesting for this card and primarily the main card bouts only.
Pick: Lawler; fourth round TKO.
2. Rose Namajunas vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz: In the event this fifteen minute affair remains standing, Namajunas will be in a great deal of trouble. She’s is crafty on her feet when she remains committed to her jab but she’ll have to get the fight to the ground to work her strengths from top position. Once there she’s is able to unleash a myriad of submission opportunities. Small issue: her opponent boasts a 95% in takedown defense.
Considering volume alone, Joanna Jedrzejczyk pushes a pace and attacks her opponents at a rate of 16 strikes per minute. Add nine more strikes to that and then understand the challenge Kowalkiewicz presents. It’s going to be a close contest and I feel these ladies are being done a disservice by not having a five-round main event slot.
Pick: Kowalkiewicz; unanimous decision.
3. Matt Brown vs. Jake Ellenberger: I don’t know what Ellenberger did to anger Joe Silva and Sean Shelby but when you look at his last slate of opponents…tough times, man.
Pick: Brown; third round SUB.
4. Ross Pearson vs. Jorge Masvidal: Both men need to get back in the win column here and I feel it’s going to be a pure striking battle.
Pick: Masvidal; unanimous decision.