UFC 181 Preview – Johny Hendricks v Robbie Lawler
Two championship fights in one night as the UFC returns to the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. In this UFC 181 preview we begin with the sequel to the legendary championship fight between new Welterweight Champion, Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler.
Then comes the long-awaited return of Lightweight Champion Anthony “Showtime” Pettis as he defends his belt against former Strikeforce Lightweight Champion, Gilbert Melendez, a battle between two future icons in the division.
The heavyweight division features action between contenders, Travis Browne and Brendan Schaub, both looking to get back on track while Todd Duffee returns from a two-year hiatus against the stout Anthony Hamilton.
Lightweight scrappers Tony Ferguson and Abel Trujillo round up what looks to be one of the most stacked UFC PPVs to close out 2014.
Johny Hendricks (C) (-205) vs Robbie Lawler (+175)
UFC Welterweight Championship (170 lbs)
The rematch to what was possibly the Fight of the Year earlier in UFC 171. Hendricks narrowly defeated Lawler despite a torn bicep. Now, the new champ is fully healed and still looking to improve whilst Lawler kept busy with wins over Jake Ellenberger and Matt Brown. Hendricks and Lawler can match each other blow-for-blow as they showed earlier but Hendricks’s wrestling is ultimately the deciding factor.
A fully healthy Hendricks can wear down Lawler despite his solid takedown defense. If the fight stays standing, Lawler has a distinct advantage although Hendricks’s heavy hands and sturdy chin means it’ll be a dogfight regardless.
Robbie Lawler is not too unlike Hunt as the longtime journeyman hunts for his title. Lawler will go down as a people’s hero and an all-time great in the division but Johny Hendricks will remain the champion in another epic clash.
Prediction: Johny Hendricks def. Robbie Lawler via Unanimous Decision to remain the UFC Welterweight Champion
Anthony Pettis (C) (-275) vs Gilbert Melendez (+235)
UFC Lightweight Championship (155 lbs)
Finishing power. This is a quality, which eludes many fighters—including some of the best. It’s a gift Anthony Pettis has an abundance of. The 27-year-old champion has been injured frequently but still finished his last three opponents, all in round one including both Benson Henderson and Donald Cerrone, two fighters who have never been finished in the UFC till then.
Pettis’s multitude of striking moves can finish a fighter from any angle. His arsenal that combines taekwondo, kickboxing and capoeira not only makes him flashy but unpredictable and versatile. Gilbert Melendez is a tough-as-nails boxer with one of the best BJJ games but he’s simply outgunned. Pettis’s takedown defense may be a weakness and one Melendez can exploit though Pettis is awfully dangerous off his back and is a fantastic scrambler.
Melendez can hope to take Pettis the distance but if Pettis is primed, he won’t let this fight go on for too long.
Prediction: Anthony Pettis def. Gilbert Melendez via TKO (Round 2) to remain the UFC Lightweight Champion
Travis Browne (-340) vs Brendan Schaub (+280)
Heavyweight Bout (265 lbs)
In a promising heavyweight scrap, both Travis Browne and Brendan Schaub are looking to rebound from defeats to Fabricio Werdum and Andre Arlovski, respectively. On paper, Browne is a sizable favourite for his size and superior striking skills. Schaub’s chin has also been a running joke among the MMA faithful as the former football player suffered his first three losses as first round knockouts.
But Schaub is the better grappler and like he did against Lavar Johnson, could neutralize Browne’s powerful striking by taking him down and controlling him though Browne is dangerous to takedown as Josh Barnett and Gabriel Gonzaga would attest (knocked out by vicious elbows in round 1). The fight is likely to stay standing and this favours Browne tremendously. And my UFC 181 Preview is .. he should finish Schaub at some point before the third.
Prediction: Travis Browne def. Brendan Schaub via KO (Round 2)
Todd Duffee (-330) vs Anthony Hamilton (+270)
Heavyweight Bout (265 lbs)
Todd Duffee finally returns to the UFC after a two-year layoff. The AKA standout has eight of ten wins by knockout with one tying the record for fastest at seven seconds in his UFC debut. Duffee has all the tools to be a superstar in a promotion dying for young heavyweight contenders. He has the athleticism, one-punch power and crisp boxing to contend. The biggest questions are his chin (both losses are by KO) and how he’s recovered from his long string of injuries.
Anthony Hamilton is playing the proverbial “can” for Duffee to squash. He has looked unimpressive in the UFC even in his grueling TKO win over Ruan Potts.
One punch can end any fight in the division but barring Duffee getting tagged, he should handily win.
Prediction: Todd Duffee def. Anthony Hamilton via TKO (Round 3)
Tony Ferguson (-265) vs Abel Trujillo (+225)
Lightweight Bout (155 lbs)
What a great fight to start off the PPV. Both “El Cucuy” (Ferguson) and “Killa” (Trujillo) have apt monikers as the heavy-handed lightweights throw to knock people out. On paper, Ferguson is the more accomplished fighter having won six of his seven UFC fights.
Yet Trujillo has finished all three of his wins by strikes. Trujillo is the better wrestler but Ferguson has a BJJ background and is the significantly bigger fighter. Best case scenario: Fight of the Night with both guys going for the kill. But a technical contest with a lot of respect and some dirty boxing, clinching and grinding for advantageous positions could be more realistic. Ferguson gets the slight edge.
Prediction: Tony Ferguson def. Abel Trujillo via Unanimous Decision