Fan favourite “ruthless” Robbie Lawler will defend his UFC welterweight title for the third time at UFC 201 against game challenger Tyron Woodley. This match up was received with a mixed reaction among fans, some fans were of the opinion that other contenders may be more deserving of this title shot and elsewhere fans arguing Woodley is a stiff stylistic test for the reigning champion. Although i do believe the argument of more deserving challengers has some steam i am certain Woodley brings a unique threat to the current champion.
Tyron Woodley has asserted himself as a title contender despite only making his mma debut in February of 2009, by which time his opponent at UFC 201 had already competed in 21 professional contest which outlines the fact that Woodley has ascended to this stage in a relatively short space of time. Woodley’s UFC record currently stands at five wins and 2 losses, his last loss was to Rory MacDonald by decision and since that loss Woodley has defeated Dong Hyun Kim (tko) and also the talented TUF 17 winner Kelvin Gastelum (split decision) despite Gastelum missing weight by 10 pounds. A Great story to come out of that fight was that Even though Woodley was entitled to 30% of Gastelum’s purse he charitably chose not to take it, speaking volumes of Woodley’s character. Tryon Woodley has been absent from the octagon since that victory, having been scheduled to face Johny Hendricks in October of 2015 only for Hendricks to pull out due to issues cutting weight, By the time Woodley enters the octagon on July 30th he will have been inactive for a total of 17 months.
The defending champion needs no introduction, Robbie Lawler has managed a fight of the night award in four of his last 6 contests and two of those were crowned the fight of the year. Since capturing the welterweight title from Johny Hendricks in their Rematch Lawler has defended his title twice the first defence was against Rory MacDonald in one of the most brutal fights i have ever seen, needing a knockout on the judges cards going into the fifth round Lawler managed to secure one marking his first defence. Fast forward 6 months, Lawler’s second defence would come against one of the divisions most dangerous strikers “The natural born killer” Carlos Condit, after a back and forth affair Robbie Lawler finished strong to beat Condit via split decision.
Making a case for Lawler
The champion has used a similar strategy in the majority of his recent fights, stuff any takedowns and close the distance to keep the fight in boxing range. From that range Lawler has been unmatched up to now, Rory MacDonald and Carlos Condit enjoyed periods of success but both fighters ultimately could not keep up with the output of Lawler. Lawler can throw a whole range of strikes but prefers for the most part to punch, occasionally he will throw power kicks at long range. Robbie possess a slick boxing style for me he’s one of the better boxers in mma. One of the things that go unnoticed about Lawler is how effective he is at leaning away from power strikes he rarely absorbs the full force of punches giving the impression Lawler is getting tagged more often than he actually is. The other skill of note would be the boxing guard of Lawler is extremely sharp, the manner in which he slips shots in close quarters and returns with clever counters is high level boxing technique. In this fight with Woodley i assume Lawler will do the same thing he has been doing up to now, the danger is how explosive Woodley can be especially early in the fight. If i am in Lawler’s shoes i would be taking as few risks in the opening rounds as possible not only will that make Woodley’s job of landing on Lawler harder it will make any potential take down attempts easier to defend. History tells us Tyron Woodley tends to fade later into fights so if Lawler avoids any critical damage up to round 3 it should be all one way traffic from that point on. Robbie Lawler will want to avoid Woodley’s power early, defend any takedown and impose his demoralizing pressure once the sting comes out of Woodley’s shots.
Making a case for Woodley
The Unique challenge i mentioned in my opening paragraph would be the athleticism of Woodley, he’s arguably the fastest single strike welterweight in the world. Woodley’s ability to explode is hard to prepare for as finding a guy Woodley’s size with the ability to move as fast as he does is near impossible. One thing in Woodley’s favour is the fact that he wont have to go looking for Lawler, Lawler loves to come forward and needs little invitation to do so. I think Woodley has two possibly three rounds to find a way to stop Lawler, Tryon Woodley has meteoric power in everything he throws he is very much a fast twitch type athlete but the double edged sword of that ability is it doesn’t seem to carry late into fights. That being the case Woodley should capitalize on the speed and power advantage he will have early in the fight and look to set traps for Lawler to fall into. Woodley has a decorated wrestling background but up to now hasn’t really done much damage with opponents on the ground so even if he does manage to get Lawler down i think he’ll just end up wasting his energy trying to keep Lawler there. The plan that makes most sense would be to create an opening to land something substantial so he can finish Lawler which he unquestionably posses the tools to do. The distance Woodley can cover in a short space of time will take a round at least for Lawler to adjust to and in that period of time Woodley must take some chances. Woodley stands in an orthodox stance whilst Lawler is a southpaw, the lead back hand can be highly effective when two fighters are in opposite stances. Woodley often leads with a right overhand its a favourable shot of his, should he be able to bait Lawler into falling short with his jab there will be a home for that right hand over the top.
Tyron Woodley has been confident in the build up to this fight almost as if he knows something we don’t, the fantastic Robin Black in his breakdown of this fight stated one factor we may be overlooking and that is how much Woodley may have improved in the time he’s been out. Although i take into account how fast Woodley has grown since his debut further emphasizing Robin’s point I’ve only seen up to now Dominick Cruz come back and show minimal signs of rust, maybe Woodley has improved but because of the layoff i fear by the time Woodley shakes off the rust it could be too late into the fight. The biggest Difference between these two guys on the feet which is where i expect the fight to stay for the greater part is the rate of strike output and fashion of strike output. Woodley is mainly a one strike at a time type of fighter, this works to conserve energy and allows him to throw shots with maximum power, it has been effective against the lower ranked guys in the division but if he doesn’t land he will get out struck by a guy like Lawler who mixes combinations and single strikes effectively. The rust is a huge factor, had Woodley not been off for so long i would have more faith in his ability to land a bomb and finish Lawler. Because of how well Rory MacDonald controlled the distance against Woodley I see Robbie Lawler being cautious early on whilst keeping the rounds competitive and then giving Woodley hell once Woodley looses that explosive power he carries early on. Stephen Thompson will be awaiting the man who gets his hand raised on Saturday night who i expect to be
Robbie Lawler by tko round 4.