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UFC 189: Rory MacDonald’s Coach Says “a Lot of People” Underestimated Robbie Lawler Prior to First Bout

Kelsey Mowatt

Rory MacDonald

In case you forgot, what with all the coverage, hype and now fallout regarding the cancellation of Jose Aldo-Conor McGregor, Rory MacDonald is set to fight Robbie Lawler at UFC 189. Not only is it a compelling scrap since it’s for the welterweight championship, but because the two have fought before.

The fight took place back in November, 2013, not long after Lawler had returned to the UFC. The heavy handed fighter was coming off consecutive, stoppage wins over Josh Koscheck and Bobby Voelker, but at the time, not too many people were predicting “Ruthless” was headed for the title.

Well, recently MacDonald’s coach, Tristar’s Firas Zahabi, appeared on the “Heavy Hands” podcast to talk about the upcoming rematch. While doing so, the martial arts master relayed the following (quote via Bloody Elbow.com):

“I think the first time around a lot of people were underestimating Robbie Lawler,” Zahabi said. “I honestly wasn’t. I thought he was a very dangerous opponent, but I feel a lot of the people in the media, and Rory’s friends and entourage . . . everybody was kind of thinking that Robbie Lawler was an easier fight than normal, and that this should be a pick-up win for him. And it’s not like that. I think Rory learned that every fight is dangerous.”

Yes indeed. Now sure, Lawler won the bout via split decision, so it wasn’t a landslide victory, but he certainly opened up a lot of people’s eyes with that performance. It demonstrated that Lawler’s overall game had improved, and that he is far more than just a powerful slugger. It also showed once again that returning to 170 pounds was one of the best decisions he’s ever made.

Now it will be interesting to see what MacDonald took away from that loss, and how he will approach Lawler in the rematch. The latter’s takedown defense has never been better, so MacDonald may have to take the belt with his striking game. Is that possible? Of course. After all, this is a guy who stopped Tarec Saffiedine in October, whose stand-up skills are right up there.

UFC 189 will be hosted by the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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