This Saturday night (July 30, 2011), two former title challengers will clash in a middleweight showdown as Tim Kennedy squares off against "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler on the Strikeforce: "Fedor vs. Henderson" main card on Showtime.
Robbie Lawler enters this match-up on the heels of a failed shot at the Strikeforce middleweight title this past January. A second consecutive loss would be devastating to his plans of ever challenging for the belt in the immediate future.
Tim Kennedy wants a rematch against "Jacare" Souza badly after falling short in a tough five-round decision last August and the fastest path to that potential title opportunity is through Lawler. He asked for this fight and is ready to make the best use of it.
Will Lawler find a home for his ravaging right hand? Will Kennedy utilize a proper strategy after a year of training with Greg Jackson's camp? Which middleweight will become one step closer to a redeeming Strikeforce title shot?
Our special fight preview should help provide those answers:
Record: 18-7 (1 No Contest) overall, 2-3 in Strikeforce
How he got here: After first getting scouted at a Hawaiian MMA event in his fourth professional fight, Lawler was pegged as the next golden boy of the UFC. He got off to a great start with the Ultimate Fighting Championships with three straight wins but a tough stretch of three losses out of four fights would end his time with the world's largest promotion.
Lawler would spend the next two years building himself back up, eventually fighting for and winning the EliteXC middleweight title from Murilo Rua in 2007. He would successfully defend his title once before the promotion folded.
The H.I.T. Squad fighter would lose his Strikeforce promotional debut to Jake Shields but would rebound in an incredible comeback performance against Melvin Manhoef. After losing a very close decision to former light heavyweight Ranato Sobral at a 195 lb. catchweight, Lawler would go on to absolutely destroy Matt Lindland in another of 2010's nastiest knockouts.
The victory would earn him a title shot against Strikeforce middleweight champion "Jacare" Souza and Lawler would hold his own with the incredibly gifted fighter for over two rounds but would eventually be overwhelmed by the Brazilian's strength on the ground, succumbing to a third round submission.
Accepting a fight against Tim Kennedy this Saturday night was a huge step back towards eventually earning another shot at the champ.
How he gets it done: Robbie Lawler is a decent wrestler but it's the power in both of his fists that make him deadly. No matter if he's down on the cards, he'll always have that threat of the one-punch knockout.
Lawler will have to try and keep the proper distance with Kennedy, avoiding any clinch attempts or potential takedown attempts. The takedowns should be easily defended unless set up very well as Lawler has a strong wrestling background and a pretty good base.
Expect the former EliteXC champion to pressure Kennedy with footwork, cutting off escape routes and hopefully forcing him to make a mistake that he can capitalize on. Lawler has only been recently submitted by three of the best middleweight grapplers on the planet and going to the ground with Tim Kennedy isn't the end of the world, but he'd probably like to avoid it regardless. If he's put on his back, he's in trouble, even if it's just positionally losing a round.
Lawler must do everything in his power to find a home for his lethal right or left hand.
Record: 13-3 overall, 4-1 in Strikeforce
Key Losses: Ronaldo Souza (Strikeforce: Houston), Jason Miller (HDNet Fights: Reckless Abandon)
How he got here: Tim Kennedy actually began training in MMA at a very young age alongside Chuck Liddell and John Hackleman at The Pit. After lengthy amateur career, he would lose his professional debut to Scott Smith via cut.
Kennedy would make his big splash at Extreme Challenge 50, winning three fights in one night to capture the tournament title and defeating Jason "Mayhem" Miller in the process.
The native Texan would not capitalize on his huge impression, instead enlisting in the military and become an Army Green Beret, deploying overseas and not fighting for three years.
Upon his return to fighting, Kennedy would win three straight bouts before losing a rematch to a much improved Jason Miller. After not fighting in 2008 due to overseas commitments, he would make his Strikeforce debut in 2009, easily handling UFC veteran Nick Thompson.
After two more impressive victories, he would be given an opportunity to win Jake Shields' vacated middleweight title against Ronaldo Souza. The fight would take place primarily in the stand-up and Souza surprised many with his aggression, winning a unanimous decision and taking advantage of Kennedy's concern of his ground game which never allowed the Green Beret to really open up.
After a great showing against Melvin Manhoef this past March, Kennedy asked for a fight with Robbie Lawler to get him back in the title picture. He got his wish.
How he gets it done: Kennedy will want to avoid standing in the pocket with Lawler as his power is simply too dangerous. The smartest plan of action would be to either stay far outside and attack Lawler with leg kicks, something that's been utilized to perfection by Melvin Manhoef, or to get in close in the clinch and work his Muay Thai skills.
Both plans of action take Lawler's heavy hands out of the equation. The clinch also leaves possibilities for takedown attempts which can put Lawler on his back, another very solid position to be in against the fearsome striker.
Expect Kennedy to push forward with clinch and takedown attempts to close the distance, only choosing to stand and trade long enough to allow Lawler to relax his defenses a bit. Once he has him in the clinch, all the hard work is done and he can attack with dirty boxing, short elbows and knees while constantly threatening trips as well.
Fight "X-Factor:" The biggest "X-Factor" for this fight is spacing. Tim Kennedy is more dangerous at a distance, Lawler is extremely dangerous in the pocket and Kennedy again has the advantage inside. Footwork will be key for both men as they try to work angles to secure their best avenues of attack. Whoever can win the battle of positioning will likely take this fight.
Bottom Line: This is a battle of the number two and number three ranked middleweights in Strikeforce right now. This fight has serious divisional implications and the winner is either going to earn another shot at the title or be knocking on the door....hard. Both men know how important this fight is for the future development of their careers. Expect a lot of patience and calculated maneuvers from both men as they eye an opening to land that devastating finishing blow.
Who will come out on top at Strikeforce: "Fedor vs. Henderson"? Tell us in the comments below!