Veteran Robbie Lawler is 8-1 in the UFC since returning to the promotion in February of 2013 after a spell in the wilderness. Now the undisputed 170lb champion, Lawler makes the third defence of his welterweight against Tyron Woodley on Saturday in the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. The bookies make the champion a 4/7 favourite (bet365), with Woodley the 2/1 (Boylesports) underdog. But make no mistake, this is a very dangerous fight for Robbie Lawler.
We all know how good a stand-up fighter Lawler is, but Woodley defends 67.8% of all opponent significant strike attempts in UFC welterweight competition, the highest rate among active fighters in the weight class. Woodley has also defended 95% of all takedown attempts in UFC welterweight competition, the highest rate in divisional history. So in terms of defence, Woodley is as efficient a fighter as you’ll find in the division.
At what point does Robbie Lawler begin to feel the effects of the wars he’s endured? Lawler’s last two fights against Rory MacDonald and Carlos Conduit have been five round wars, two of the greatest title fights in history. Lawler is as skilled and tough as they come, but Tyron Woodley is unlikely to get drawn into a dogfight so easily.
All of the indications from American Top Team are that Woodley has improved since we last saw him and has a gameplan for this fight, one that will see him finally unlock the key to beating Lawler. His base of top class wrestling and undeniable power set the tone for a man who has the skill-set and athleticism to become champion.
In terms of method of victory, who knows, but 2/1 is probably the value in the market for the UFC 201 main event. Lawler will be a tough nut to crack, but given the damage he’s taken in his last three title fights, Tyron Woodley could be able to secure a TKO victory, but equally it’d be no surprise if this went to the judges and once again, you’d have to think Woodley has a plan B which involves having to grind it out.