We turn our attention to this weekend's UFC 201 with a detailed look at the Robbie Lawler vs Tyron Woodley fight which we preview and offer betting tips for.
Wedged between UFC 200 and McGregor vs Diaz and taking a backseat in the news cycle to UFC sale and the Jones/Lesnar PED storm, UFC 201 is flying under the radar. The withdrawal of flyweight king Demetrious Johnson has further highlighted the cards lack of depth, but make no mistake this title fight if worthy of headling any card. Ruthless Robbie Lawler (below) will look to defend his welterweight title for the third time against team mate and NCAA All-American wrestler Tyron Woodley.
Lawler’s last defence on January 1st was a five round war against Carlos Condit that will surely be a fight of the year contender come December. When you consider that his epic clashes with Rory MacDonald and Johnny Hendricks were awarded fight of the year in 2015 and 2014 respectively, you begin to paint a picture of what kind of fighter Lawler is. Lawler made his octagon debut at UFC 37 as a 20 year old and he has been fighting top level competition in every major MMA promotion ever since. An out and out brawler, Lawler uses insanely effective takedown defence to keep the fight standing and backs his punching power, chin and striking defence to win in a firefight. He is constantly coming forward ripping combinations to the head and body always with the intent to hurt opponents. He throws a variety of strikes set up with a jab, but his most dangerous weapon is the right hook. He does his best work in the pocket and doesn’t mind taking one to give one if the fight gets into close quarters. His striking defence is also exceptional; he uses a lot of head movement and is great at rolling with punches to lessen their impact. Lawler has always been a dangerous striker but it has been the evolution of his defensive wrestling that has seen him rise to the top of MMA’s most stacked division. Lawler’s grappling output is 100% focussed on keeping the fight standing, he has great balance, intuition and a wicked sprawl. He is also able to maintain his output throughout the duration of the fight and his ability to go up another gear in the 5th round is what won him the fights against MacDonald and Condit. Lawler’s name on the ticket automatically makes this a must see fight, but he is coming up against an unheralded, but dangerous opponent who has the skill set to make this a tough night for the ruthless one.
Tyron Woodley (below) was supposed to fight Johnny Hendricks to determine the number one contender in October last year, but the bout was scrapped after Hendricks was admitted to hospital following a bad weight cut. Instead of rebooking the fight, Woodley opted to wait out an opportunity to fight for the title and while he ended up getting the shot it means this will be his first fight in nearly 18 months. Woodley is an athletic specimen and was a standout wrestler at the University of Missouri. He uses good technique and explosive takedowns to control where the fight takes place. He is heavy on top and is able to win rounds and do damage whenever he can get the fight to the mat. While Lawler has some of the best takedown defence percentages in the division, Hendricks was able to drag him to the mat a few times and Woodley presents an even more dangerous wrestling threat. The constant takedown threat also forms the basis of his striking game. If opponents look to sprawl too early, he is great at coming over the top with a right and it doesn’t take many clean Woodley strikes to change the complexion of a fight. Woodley is not known for his kicks, but he certainly has them in his repertoire and Lawler has shown a consistent inability to defend leg kicks and a lack of takedown threat mean Woodley will be able to thrown them with reckless abandon. He does lack output on the feet and has struggled against opponents who can keep him at the end of their jab. While 18 months is a long time off and ring rust becomes a real issue, Woodley hasn’t been injured and I expect him to show off some significant technical improvements procured during that time.
Prediction: Full disclosure, I’ve bet and lost against Robbie Lawler in both his last two fights. Granted he was 4 minutes away from losing a decision against Rory MacDonald and he was gifted a very questionable decision against Carlos Condit. This fight will most likely be decided by the wrestling. If Lawler can keep it standing you have to back him in a pure striking contest, but if Woodley can win rounds with his takedowns it will also open up opportunities on the feet. Lawler will go down as one of the most entertaining fighters in UFC history, but these last 2 years have seen him dish out and receive an unprecedented amount of punishment and you have to expect that will catch up with him eventually and this could finally be the fight we start to see a decline in the ruthless one. That combined with Woodley’s time off and the fact he has never been into the fifth round of a fight mean there are a lot of unanswered questions going into this one. The over 2.5 rounds looks appealing, Woodley has only ever been stopped by strikes once and we know how damn near impossible Lawler is to put away. Woodley’s lack of top class competition and the poor showing in his last fight mean he is a pretty big underdog here, but if he can work behind a good leg kicking game, avoid pocket exchanges and land meaningful takedowns I think he has the skillset to become the surprise new Welterweight champion.
Take note: Any of the tips in this article are simply the author’s opinion, so bet at your own risk and always gamble responsibly. Also be sure to check out the Before You Bet Twitter Page for all our thoughts in the lead up to bets! Happy punting!
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