There are expected to be fistic fireworks on display this Saturday night (July 14, 2012) as former Strikeforce title challenger "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler takes on former light heavyweight and now debuting 185-er Lorenz Larkin in the opening bout of the Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy main card in Portland, Oregon.
Robbie Lawler has had a very up and down Strikeforce career, never able to put together a bit series of wins while also never stringing together more than two losses. He's coming off a fantastic first round technical knockout of Adlan Amagov and he's hoping to repeat history against another prospect who's dropping down a weight class.
Lorenz Larkin was consistently undersized at 205 pounds, but he won his first three Strikeforce bouts anyways. "The Monsoon" got a huge step up in competition this past January but was knocked out by a steroid-laced Muhammed Lawal, and the loss was changed to a no contest. Now dropping down to 185 pounds, Larkin is hoping to make a huge splash in Strikeforce's middleweight division.
Will Lawler play prospect killer again? Can Larkin get back to his winning ways now that he's finally fighting someone his own size? What's the key to victory for both middleweights on Saturday night?
Let's find out:Robbie Lawler
Record: 19-8 (1 No Contest) overall, 3-4 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.
Lawler accepted a bout with Tim Kennedy which had middleweight title contendership on the line. In that fight, the "Ruthless" fighter was tentative and didn't do nearly enough to impress the judges as he would go on to lose a unanimous decision. He bounced back impressively with a huge stoppage against top prospect Adlan Amagov and he's looking to take out his second prospect in a row on Saturday night.
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 faced a top prospect in his last fight and completely overwhelmed Adlan Amagov via punches and knees. He can't sit back and be too patient like he was in prior bouts where he was either concerned about the takedown or just hesitant to engage.
"Ruthless" Robbie is at his best when he has no respect for his opponents. It's during those times that he steps up the aggression and really goes for the kill. No matter how strong Larkin looked at times during his light heavyweight run through the "Challengers" division, Lawler needs to put that behind him and just try to punch this kid in the face as hard as he can.
Record: 12-0 (1 no contest) overall, 3-0 (1 no contest) in Strikeforce
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Lorenz Larkin has been one of the most active fighters out there. He began his amateur mixed martial arts career at the end of 2008 and went 7-0 with six stoppage victories in a matter of six months. He had turned pro by the middle of 2009.
Despite being very undersized, Larkin spent the majority of the start of his professional career fighting at both heavyweight and light heavyweight. From February 2010-February 2011, he fought eight times professionally and finished strong with six straight knockouts.
"The Monsoon" got the call to the big leagues when Satoshi Ishii went down with an injury and he not only stepped up on short notice, but destroyed K-1 kickboxing veteran Scott Lighty on the feet, scoring a second round technical knockout. He followed up his victory with two decisions against significantly larger fighters Nick Rossborough and Gian Villante, the former being his first Strikeforce Challengers main event.
After three straight wins on the Challengers series, the Riverside native felt he was ready to be tested against the big dogs in the Strikeforce light heavyweight division and he was matched up against former champion "King" Muhammed Lawal earlier this year. In that bout, he was dominated by Lawal's wrestling and eventually knocked out, but a positive test for steroids negated Larkin's first loss.
Now, Larkin is dropping down to middleweight and he'll be facing another top opponent in 2011 title challenger Robbie Lawler.
How he gets it done: It's the diversity of Larkin's striking that's going to help him out in this fight. Unlike Adlan Amagov who can and will throw anything and everything, Larkin can throw any strike and remain balanced and composed.
I expect to see him wing head kicks, spinning back kicks and regular straight punches from start to finish and try to make Robbie Lawler as uncomfortable as possible. Larkin has been improving his wrestling by leaps and bounds since getting manhandled by Lawal so I don't think he's going to be at risk of being taken down either.
If Lawler is content to just stand and throw punches and the occasional knee, Larkin is going to try and outwork him with superior volume and technique.
I think leg kicks are going to be HUGE in this fight as Lawler's legs were kicked to tatters in his bout against Melvin Manhoef and Larkin has the potential to do the same.
Fight X-Factor: The X-Factor for this fight has to be Larkin's weight cut and how much it's going to affect him. He was not a big light heavyweight by any means but he didn't have to cut a lot of weight and didn't have a very strict diet his entire career. He had to be disciplined this entire camp while making the cut down and that could affect him either positively or negatively.
If he comes out refreshed, in tremendous shape and invigorated, he could unleash some serious pain on Lawler but if he's slower and easier to hit, he could be a huge sitting duck.
Bottom Line: This bout features two stand-up specialists with power who are not afraid to trade in the pocket. There is no chance this fight is boring. Lawler and Larkin are going to throw down and someone is almost certainly going out before the final bell. Whether it's head kicks, leg kicks, body kicks, uppercuts or Lawler's big right hand, there's going to be some serious damage dished out in this fight and I honestly can't wait!
Who will come out on top at Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!