After The War: UFC 181: Johny Hendricks vs Robbie Lawler Review
May 10, 2002. Robbie Lawler made his first UFC fight at only age 20. The youngest member of the Pat Miletich camp, Lawler was teammate to the legendary Matt Hughes, the Welterweight Champion. Lawler was the highly-touted young gun of his camp with his furious fighting style and knockout power.
Two years in and Lawler saw his promise sullied when Nick Diaz knocked him out followed by a quick loss at middleweight. Lawler was exiled from the UFC and toiled the lower circuits until Strikeforce circa 2009. He mustered a modest 3-5 record though fighting top competition. Lawler at this point was just a name—an also-ran.
Then he returned to the UFC just last year. Lawler would move back to welterweight for the first time in a decade and rejuvenated his career displaying the superstar potential he’s been promised since way back. And finally, at 32-years-old and a 13-year MMA career, Robbie Lawler has reached his peak.
Robbie’s scintillating but controversial win over then-Welterweight champion Johny Hendricks in a rematch of their classic bout back in UFC 171 was not the only highlight of the night as several others including returning Lightweight Champion, Anthony Pettis had a night to remember.
Won UFC Welterweight Title
“It was an amazing journey.” Robbie Lawler finally fulfilled his long UFC promise of finishing on top. Matt Hughes wrapping the strap around Lawler was surreal as 12 years ago Lawler was the young upstart in a Pat Miletich camp full of former UFC champions. Now, Hughes and the champs are mostly retired and Lawler is the champion. Lawler rallied in the late 4th round and 5th round to upset Johny Hendricks in a controversial bout which saw the most intense crowning of a champion who cried, “That’s you fight, championship fights.”
Should Fight: Rory Macdonald: a rematch for another rematch. Lawler upset Macdonald back in UFC 167 to earn a shot for the vacant belt. Over a year later, the two are back on a collision course. Both fighters have improved to a combined 6-1 record (3-1 Lawler; 3-0 Macdonald) with emphatic finishes on both ends. Now, it takes center stage as a potential huge PPV event.
Retained UFC Lightweight Title
Return of the Jedi! “Showtime” returned after a 15-month layoff and quickly reminded everyone why he’s the king of the most stacked division. After fending off Gilbert Melendez’s flurry of strikes and takedown attempts, Pettis staggered Melendez with a quick punch and snapped on a guillotine choke that tapped Melendez for the first time in his career. The Roufusport prodigy has now finished his last four fights and has looked better each time. At only 27, Pettis could be the division’s biggest star since the original “Prodigy”, BJ Penn.
Should Fight: Khabib Nurmagomedov: the unbeaten Dagestani grappling superstar is coming off a knee surgery but will be ready by 2015. Nurmagomedov has the most momentum having steamrolled all six of his UFC opponents including top-five fighter Rafael Dos Anjos.
Ties Zuffa Record for Most Octagon Finishes
Though it happened in controversial fashion, Urijah Faber set a UFC Bantamweight record for wins with 7 and tied Anderson Silva for most finishes in UFC/WEC history with 14. Faber appeared to poke Francisco Rivera in the eye that dazed Rivera allowing Faber to pull the bulldog choke on the prone opponent. Referee Mario Yamasaki did not stop the fight. Both fighters remained classy through it although Francisco Rivera later sought to appeal.
Should Fight: Francisco Rivera: fights have been overturned before due to issues like this and regardless if the appeal is answered or not, a quick rematch would be the right thing to do.
Won by 1st Round Knockout; first fight since 2012
Todd Duffee set the stage in terms of comeback stories tonight as the athletic specimen knocked out Anthony Hamilton in just 33 seconds. Todd Duffee still produces highlight reel material and that goes a long way as he could be on the fast track up the rankings.
Should Fight: Alistair Overeem-Stefan Struve Winner: Duffee had been knocked out by Overeem earlier in his one-fight DREAM career but the “Reem” has looked a lot less destructive and more vulnerable. The fight will be entertaining nonetheless with a huge finish. Struve and Duffe could also be a very fun fight between two of the division’s best under-30 talent.
No Shame in Defeat:
Loses UFC Welterweight Title
It must feel like déjà vu for Johny Hendricks as the champ surrendered his title over to Robbie Lawler in their rematch. Hendricks seemed to be controlling the fight for the majority of the first four rounds and Fightmetric scored more strikes for Hendricks in three of the five rounds. Yet Hendricks again lost a controversial split decision. Hendricks failed to match the intensity and striking of Lawler in the fifth as he simply absorbed Lawler’s best shots. The former champion could now be looking at a potential immediate rematch.
Should Fight: Hector Lombard-Josh Burkman Winner: Lawler earned his shot back to Hendricks and Hendricks should likely do the same even if Dana seems ecstatic to do a trilogy fight. Hector Lombard is about one big win away from a title shot and should he get past Burkman, a fight with Hendricks could determine who gets the next crack at the belt.
Loses UFC Lightweight Title shot
The former Strikeforce Lightweight champ may have lost the last title shot of his career. Melendez looked to be controlling the action and likely won the first round. In the second, Melendez was caught by Pettis after a chaotic exchange where he was quickly put in a guillotine choke and tapped just before he went out. Melendez pushed the champ hard but came up short and is headed to the back of a long line of contenders.
Should Fight: Benson Henderson-Eddie Alvarez Loser: a chance to avenge a prior loss with then-champion Benson Henderson would be a great fun fight that’s a co-main eventer at least. Otherwise, a tussle with Eddie Alvarez should be an even more fun boxing fight.
Lost to Urijah Faber in 2nd Round after missed eye poke
In a fight he was winning up until the 2nd round eye poke, “Cisco” looked to be in good shape against the former WEC Featherweight champion. He stuffed all three of his takedown attempts and was keeping pace with Faber’s strikes. Rivera justly appealed the decision and there may be a good chance he gets the decision overturned with a potential quick rematch.
Should Fight: Urijah Faber: whether his appeal is answered or isn’t, it won’t hurt to have an immediate rematch. Faber and Rivera were fighting a competitive technical scrap that deserves a better ending.
The “Freight Train” found himself in a serious train wreck when he was knocked out cold in just 33 seconds. Hamilton was the proverbial sacrificial lamb to Todd Duffee who was the more athletic better striker and it showed. His record now drops to 1-2 in the UFC and will likely be headed to the back of the undercard against a much lesser opponent.
Should Fight: Josh Copeland or Daniel Omielanczuk: both fighters lost their previous fights and are on a short leash. Hamilton can look to save his job with a win over either one