The stars have seemingly lined up perfectly as two of the hottest welterweights on the planet will meet up in a number one contenders bout at the SAP Center in San Jose, CA in the main event of UFC on FOX 12.
In one corner stands ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler, who will enter the bout as the number two ranked 170-pounder according to the official Power MMA fighter rankings. In his last bout, the American Top Team product walked away with a third round stoppage victory over Jake Ellenberger at UFC 173 in May. This pushed his to record 4-1 since returning to the UFC last February, with three of those wins ending with a highlight reel knockout. His lone defeat coming at the hands of current UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks in a bout many consider an early favorite for the 2014 fight of the year.
But standing across from him will be Matt ‘The Immortal’ Brown, currently the number five welterweight, who is riding an incredible seven fight winning streak inside the octagon. His most recent victory was a thrilling come from behind third round knockout over the highly touted Erick Silva. While he has received some flack for his lack of top-10 opponents, no one is denying Brown’s abilities as his five consecutive knockouts stands as the second longest streak in UFC history.
With 31 knockouts between the two, this bout is violence personified. It’s one of those matchups that when announced, fight fans around the world dropped to their knees and thanked the fight gods for making this fight a reality.
But there can only be one winner so let’s have a let at how these two octagon warriors stack up to one another:
Early in his career Lawler was little more than a brawler who flung wild haymakers with the sole purpose of trying to punch a hole through his opponents’ head. But over the course of the last few years Lawler has grown into a finely tuned striking machine. In his past bouts, Lawler has relied heavily on his right jab and head movement to catch opponents off guard and sneak in a right hook. He will often uses the threat of his jab to set up huge shots from his left. In his fight against Rory MacDonald, Lawler used a combination of a straight right followed by a left uppercut, which sent the Canadian tumbling to the canvas. This is in contrast to many of the other fighters in the division who use their lead hand as a defensive weapon to keep their opponents at bay.
Another aspect of Lawler’s stand up attack that has grown leaps and bounds is most certainly his kicks. Against Bobby Voelker, Lawler continuously slapped his shin across the body of his opponent. With his midsection red from the amount of shots he was absorbing, Voelker began to gradually drop his hands in order to prevent more damage from Lawler’s kicks. Recognizing this, Lawler went upstairs and turned his opponent’s lights out with a swift kick to the temple.
But Brown may be one of the few fighters in the division who can match Lawler’s aggression inside the octagon. As Brown puts it, his style of fighting is that of a “technical brawler.” This perfectly describes his last fight against Silva. With his opponent hurt Brown could have tried to power through his opponents defense in the hopes landing that one punch knockout. Instead Brown mixed it up and picked apart his opponent with a series of punches to the head and body. It seemed like every time Silva tried to protect a part of his body, Brown would just attack a different area, giving the young Brazilian zero time to recover from the onslaught. It was a beautiful combination of raw power, speed and accuracy.
Brown’s straight right hand packs so much power many of his opponents tend to circle away. When this happens Brown will explode with a looping left hook. If this doesn’t work he will often throw a snapping head kick, sending his opponents reeling backwards. Brown will follow this up with a quick flurry of punches that more often than not ends with him on top of his opponent, dropping elbows onto their unprotected head.
However, Brown showed he is rather susceptible to body shots. In the opening round against Silva he was dropped with a powerful body kick and was close to being finished. Lawler, on the other hand, has proven to be one of the most durable fighters in the entire organization giving him the slight edge in the striking department.
If I was a betting man I would put down money that neither fighter attempts a single takedown in this bout.
Lawler rarely looks to take the fight to the canvas. Instead he uses his wrestling background to keep the fight standing. In his fight against Josh Koscheck , a former Division One All-American wrestler, Lawler showed tremendous takedown defense. Heading into that fight it was clear Koscheck would look to take the fight to the canvas early and control Lawler from the top. While Koscheck did secure the takedown early, Lawler showed patience off his back and scrambled up to his feet. Koscheck quickly attempted another takedown but Lawler sprawled and defended the attack beautifully. Most fighters in this position will look to control their opponent from the position, but Lawler backed away from his sprawl and blasted his opponent with a series of punches against the cage. Koscheck was just one of the many opponents who have looked t0 punish Lawler off his back, yet failed to do so. Lawler has spent just 4.7 percent of UFC fight time on his back, the fifth smallest proportion of opponent ground control among active welterweights.
Brown, on the other hand, will not back away from his downed opponent, instead he will look to pin his opponents arm to the canvas in order to land his signature elbows and punches from the top position. But where Brown really shines is within the clinch. As he punishes his opponents with sharp elbows and crippling knees to the body, his opponents will naturally cover up with the hope of surviving the round. Brown will then immediately sweep the legs and toss his off-balance opponent down to the canvas where he looks to attack from the top.
The problem with Brown is he has not faced a strong wrestler during his win streak so there is not much to judge his takedown defense on. This is a complete contrast to Lawler who has faced some of the best wrestlers in the history of the welterweight division and found success against all of them. He may have lost to Hendricks, a four-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler and Big 12 Conference Champion, but he defended eight of 10 takedowns attempted by the champion. Neither man is known for the wrestling skills but in this case Lawler’s defensive grappling is simply better than Brown’s offensive attack.
Similar to the above matchup, the chances of this fight ending with a submission are slim to none.
Brown, who does hold a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, has earned seven victories by way of submission. His triangle choke remains one of the most under appreciated weapons in the entire 170-pound division as he nearly finished Silva, Mike Swick and Jordan Mein using this technique. However he is also one of seven fighters in UFC history to have four or more submission losses inside the octagon and will often make pretty reckless mistakes if his opponent can work their way into a dominant position. While he did manage escape from Silva’s back control, just the fact that his opponent worked his way into such a position should some raise red flags.
With just one submission victory in his 13 year career, it is safe to safe Lawler will not be looking to showcase any of offensive jiu-jitsu skills against Brown. Similarly to his wrestling, Lawler will look to his grappling skills to transition back to his feet. Using a rather impressive butterfly guard, Lawler was able to lift Koscheck from the top position and work his way back to his feet.
Again, don’t expect this bout to turn in a grappling contest as both men will undoubtably look to land the knockout punch rather than force their opponent to tap to a submission. However Brown’s 22 submissions during his UFC welterweight career ranks as the third most in division history, which shows just how confident he is off back, giving him the edge in this matchup.
Brown excels on working off his opponents mistakes. As he pushes the pace they will often panic, giving Brown an opening to spring in to action. This could be a problem for him as Lawler has never shown signs of backing down from an opponent, even when he’s hurt. He stood right in the pocket for 25 minutes against Hendricks, eating hundreds of punches throughout the fight, yet never taking a step back. Brown has also shown to have a weakness to body shots, which Lawler should have no problem capitalizing on. Yes he has managed to fight his way back to his feet on both occasions he was dropped from a body shot, but Lawler is a finisher in every sense of the word. If Brown shows any signs of damage you better believe Lawler will capitalize on it and end the fight in the most devastating way possible.
Lawler via Round 2 TKO
Here are the rest of my predictions for the main card and preliminary bouts:
Main Card, FOX, 8pm ET
- Anthony Johnson def. Antônio Rogério Nogueira
- Clay Guida def. Dennis Bermudez
- Josh Thomson def. Bobby Green
Prelims Card, FOX, 6pm ET
- Jorge Masvidal def. Daron Cruickshank
- Patrick Cummins def. Kyle Kingsbury
- Tim Means def. Hernani Perpetuo
- Mike De La Torre def. Brian Ortega
Digital Prelim Card, UFC Fight Pass, 4:15pm ET
- Akbarh Arreola def. Tiago dos Santos
- Steven Siler def. Noad Lahat
- Andreas Stahl def. Gilbert Burns
- Joanna Jedrzejczyk def. Juliana Lima