UFC Welterweight champion Robbie Lawler will be making his third title defense against #4 Tyron Woodley at UFC 201 in Atlanta. The “Ruthless” fighter has recently had two of the most physically grueling bouts in recent years, and he’s ready to take on yet another contender. So how do these two fighters match up? Take a look below at our breakdown and predictions for UFC 201.
All I can say is I wish Woodley the best. Why? Because Lawler dominates this category. The Southpaw boxer has rightfully earned the title of best striker in the Welterweight division. Look at his fight against Rory MacDonald for a prime example – Lawler’s accumulation of straight lefts destroyed MacDonald’s nose and brought the fight to a close.
I will say, Lawler barely escaped the wrath of Condit at UFC 195, with the judges’ split decision favoring Lawler by only one point. Needless to say, we weren’t surprised when this bout won Fight of the Night. The end result caused quite the controversy, but in the end, Lawler’s strikers were more significant.
Lawler likes to work inside the pocket and will almost always attempt to the move fights into that close range. We’ve seen him improve his distance offense, but his strength lies in his speed and comfort in the pocket. While Lawler is known for having a powerful left hand, we can’t forget about his right hook. He excels at forcing his opponents to circle away from his left to then nail them with his right – his combination of straight punches and hooks is deadly. The numbers don’t lie. Lawler averages 3.51 significant strikes landed per minute, and 20 of his 27 wins came via knockout.
Now, let’s look at Woodley. His strikes are more accurate than Lawler, but he doesn’t have the power Lawler has. He averages about 2.56 significant strikes landed per minute. He has five knockout wins, with four of those coming from his last five victories, so that does say something. However, Lawler has only ever been knocked out once via Nick Diaz over 12 years ago. If anyone will knock someone out, it will be Lawler knocking Woodley out. When it comes to striking, Lawler clearly has the advantage.
Both fighters have wrestling backgrounds, but Woodley more so than Lawler. Lawler has some high school wrestling experience which has served him well in his fights. He can be a difficult fighter to wrestle because he has a powerful sprawl and strong hips that he uses to flatten his opponents. In many cases, his strength has forced his opponents to abandon their attempts at takedowns.
However, Woodley is a former NCAA Division I All-American at the University of Missouri. You can’t deny his superiority over Lawler in this category. He lands 1.92 takedowns per fight (for reference, Lawler lands .82). He also has incredible takedown defense, avoiding 92% of total takedowns.
Lawler only has one victory by submission, which dates back to 2005. However, 5 of his 10 losses came by submission, four of which were via chokes. Given this information, we know Lawler will likely stick with striking, and Woodley will try to use his wrestling ability to his advantage.
There are a couple of other factors we need to take into account with this fight: ring rust and stamina.
First, Woodley has been out of the ring for a while – since January of 2015, to be exact. He’s been sitting on the sidelines since his last bout with Kelvin Gastelum, so it should be interesting to see his return to the ring. Lawler, on the other hand, has been dominating the division with two successful title defenses that were also two of the best fights we’ve ever seen.
Second, Lawler has the heart, stamina and cardio. He may not be the best fighter in every category, but there’s a reason that he’s champion – he has a fire in him that other fighters struggle to match. Woodley is known to be explosive, but he’s also known to run out of gas. His ring rust could very much affect his ability to keep up with such an active opponent. Sure, we could see the fight going all five rounds, but we also wouldn’t be surprised if it ends via knockout in the fourth.
Our Prediction: Robbie Lawler wins via Unanimous Decision
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