Rory MacDonald (15-1, 6-1 UFC) vs. Robbie Lawler (21-9-1, 6-3 UFC), at UFC 167
More welterweights are on tap as we work our way towards the main and co-main events, and these 2 welterweights are each on their own hot streak. We may see the continued resurgence of veteran Lawler or the continued ascension of Rory MacDonald.
Rory MacDonald is said to be the representation of what mixed martial arts will look like in the future, and with good reason. Rory has trained, and excelled in, MMA from the start, he’s not a converted wrestler nor is he a fighter embarking on a 2nd career in MMA after a run in some other sport. Rory began fighting in his native Canada when he was 16 years old and he knocked out or submitted every single foe in his way until his debut in the UFC at the beginning of 2010. Rory continued his winning ways with a slick arm bar submission of Mike Guymon impressing the UFC brass in the process. Up next was a big step up in competition in former WEC champ, future UFC #1 contender, and all around bad ass Carlos Condit. Surprisingly Rory controlled the fight and was beating Condit up until Carlos had enough and finished Rory at the very end of the fight handing Rory his 1st and only loss to date. Rory MacDonald is an impressive fighter to watch, all aspects of his game appear to be at an expert level and he’s got the size, strength, and recently developed mean streak to make it all work. Unlike most developing fighters, Rory has looked at least as impressive against the better fighters he faced as he did against the lesser ones. His wrestling is more clinches and trips than singles and doubles, he works well on the feet behind his long jab and punishing body attack (ask BJ Penn), and he has been effective on the floor in all positions. Not many of Rory’s weaknesses have been exposed since the Condit fight, and even than its hard to call an awe inspiring rally from one guy a weakness for the other. MacDonald is equal parts horsepower and technique and all of the hype around him is justified.
The man who will be standing across the cage from Rory on November 16th will be Robbie Lawler, an impressive fighter in his own right. Robbie was once a member of the feared “MFS Elite” team under legendary coach and fighter Pat Miletich. He had an entertaining run as the Welterweight golden boy in the UFC from 2002-2004 before losing 2 in a row and heading elsewhere. He had success outside the UFC picking up 3 different middleweight titles on his way to settling down in Strikeforce where he went 3-5 and some thought he was on his way out. Returning to the UFC and to the 170 lb division seems to have reinvigorated Robbie though, and his new home being American Top Team could help make for an awesome comeback story. Robbie is and always has been a striker, primarily a boxer. He fights in the model of a Chuck Liddell or a Mirko Crocop, using awesome upper body strength, great hips, and “ruthless” killer instinct to stay on the feet and knock the crap out of guys. He is still this way today but has added nice kicks and knees, better composure, and better conditioning to the mix. This has allowed Robbie to go 2-0 in his return to the UFC. Robbie wins big and usually when he loses, he losses big. I don’t doubt Robbie’s resolve but he has never been particularly good at fighting through adversity and roaring back to get the win. This could spell trouble for him against the world’s best.
Robbie Lawler is looking better than ever, he seems to have kept all his strengths and added new ones, the question here is; has he addressed his weaknesses? Even if he has it will be a tough go against Rory. Lawler’s 1 punch KO power will always keep him in the fight but Rory is looking more and more like a champion and will continue his rise towards a possible title shot, if he wants it. Rory MacDonald wins by decision.