It’s amazing how much one fight can change the general perception of a fighter. At UFC 157, Robbie Lawler scored an upset knockout victory over Josh Koscheck. By doing so, Lawler catapulted himself into the top ten rankings of the UFC welterweight division. I’m not going to argue with the ranking, but I will caution against thinking Lawler is actually one of the world’s ten best welterweights.
That’s because he’s not. In fact, he’s pretty mediocre when you look at his total resume. His statistics aren’t impressive at all; he’s running a deficit in significant strikes, takedowns, guard passes, and submission attempts. The only thing keeping Lawler relevant is his ability to win and not lose by knockout.
The fight that epitomizes this is Lawler’s fight against Melvin Manhoef in January 2010. Manhoef is a very good kickboxer who hits like a truck, but has no ground game. Any sensible MMA fighter would take Manhoef down, but Lawler hasn’t gone for takedowns in many years now. Manhoef won the striking battle 23-3, but one of Lawler’s three strikes knocked Manhoef out. So Lawler has punching power going for him.
Now Lawler has been matched against Bobby Voelker, and I have to commend Joe Silva and the UFC for giving Lawler a sensible opponent. If Lawler had been matched against a top ten fighter like Martin Kampmann, he probably would have had a very rough night. Voelker can be the first of a series of opponents that make Lawler prove he deserves a top ten status.
(Of course, if Voelker wins this fight, suddenly he’ll be ranked in the top ten. That’s what I don’t like about MMA rankings.)
Voelker isn’t a better fighter than Lawler, but he should be a tough opponent anyway. He’s extremely durable and has shown the ability to absorb a good deal of punishment and keep fighting back. There is big potential for Voelker to win on points in this match. While Voelker has established himself as a tough fighter who will land a lot of strikes against the right opponent, Lawler is a fighter who landed a grand total of 26 strikes in 15 minutes against Lorenz Larkin. By the way, that was Lawler’s last fight before facing Koscheck.
I’m not going to focus too much on the ground game, because I don’t think this fight is going there. Like I said, Lawler hasn’t gone for takedowns for a long time, and Voelker isn’t the type to go for frequent takedowns either. If a takedown happens, it’s probably because Voelker landed it, but I don’t see Voelker doing too much damage before Lawler gets back to his feet.
I’m siding with Lawler in this match because he does have much more power than Voelker, and has fought much tougher competition over his long MMA career. However, I see Voelker as a very “live” underdog who can steal this fight if Lawler doesn’t put him away.
Pick: Robbie Lawler by TKO