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Keys to victory! UFC 189: Robbie Lawler vs Rory MacDonald 2

Two of the most talented and intelligent forces in UFC's welterweight division will go toe-to-toe tonight (Sat. July 11, 2015) inside MGM Grand Garden Arena for the right to be called the ruler of the 170-pound division.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Unbeknownst to the mixed martial arts (MMA) population is quite the welterweight skirmish in the co-main event of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) summer blockbuster pay-per-view (PPV) UFC 189.

Defending titleholder Robbie Lawler squares off against old rival Rory MacDonald prior to the scintillating featherweight frenzy for the interim 145-pound strap between Chad Mendes and No. 1 contender Conor McGregor.

"Ruthless" faced "Red King" at UFC 167 in Nov. 2013, with the former coming away with a close, split-decision win. The 25-year-old MacDonald faded down the stretch, albeit with an accompanying ankle issue and lack of desire, allowing Lawler to secure a title-eliminator win.

Now, the pair will battle it out for the right to be called the champion of the 170-pound kingdom. Each man brings a unique skill-set to the table and has improved in their recent fights.

Read on to find out what Lawler and MacDonald must do to claim a "W" in "Sin City" tonight.

Robbie Lawler

#1 Pick spots ...

The consensus option for the American Top Team crown jewel would probably be to make this a dog fight. But, that won't work against a tactician like MacDonald.

Lawler has not faced a striker quite like the Canadian and he would be ill-advised to think that he will just waltz right into the pocket. No, no, no. It does not work that way.

The 33-year-old has the gas tank and can dish out damage on the outside or in the clinch. With that being said, he will need to avoid the precision punches -- and that stinging jab -- of MacDonald's if he has any hope of retaining his belt. Did I forget his front kick as well?

#2 Be weary of the double-leg ...

Lawler is going to need to be careful with the amount of leg strikes he throws. In the third round of their original barnburner, he was quickly taken down, knowing that he just dropped a clear round to MacDonald, after overextending himself and throwing a knee.

One mistake like that could swing the momentum of this entire match up.

Since Lawler frequented leg kicks more often than not, this means MacDonald will be on the lookout for them. For his sake, I would expect more jab strikes and/or body punches from the southpaw ... maybe even an uppercut.

Either way, he will need to create some confusion and mix things up early and often in order to get inside on MacDonald.

#3 Establish double underhooks ...

If this fight becomes a battle filled with clinch work, Lawler needs to nab double underhooks first. If not, he could be put on his back, as was the case with Nate Diaz when he fought the stout Canadian.

MacDonald was able to use his expert trips, using his weight to collapse the Stockton slugger.

Lawler's takedown defense is pretty average and is equally as big as MacDonald, but one slip up and he could be staring up at the rafters.

The one thing working for him is his guard, which is an underrated aspect of his game. Outside of the final few seconds of the fight, where MacDonald rained down some good elbows on the Iowa native, Lawler was able to negate any offense or advancement from the former with the use of butterfly guard.

Rory MacDonald

#1 If he's going to leg kick, put him on his back early ...

If we had to give the power advantage to one person in this bout, the pendulum would clearly swing to the side of "Ruthless." That is no knock on MacDonald, but some just have a different kind of strength.

Sure, MacDonald can more than hang with Lawler on the feet, but why not implement more of a wrestling-heavy gameplan against a fighter who surrendered five takedowns in his last fight?

Like his mentor Georges St-Pierre, MacDonald -- without any prior collegiate wrestling experience -- is usually able to take down the best fighters out there. Whether it be with a double-leg, or a trip, MacDonald will have the advantage on the ground and owes it to himself to make this fight an uglier one.

That will become an even easier feat if Lawler over-commits, which is something he has a habit of doing.

Kick, kick, kick ...

Being that this is a southpaw versus orthodox match up, there are obvious gaping holes for each fighter to attack. In MacDonald's case, the entire left side of Lawler is there for him to light up.

Of course, this will be no easy task, but with the Tristar Gym product's striking expertise and Lawler's lack of a takedown threat apparent, it just might. Their first fight was very close and I would expect this one to be the same.

However, MacDonald can put his stamp on the second tilt early through well-timed body shots and a subsequent kick to the head. MacDonald launched a few of them upstairs in their first meeting, connecting on multiple occasions.

Do not get pulled into Robbie's world ...

MacDonald does not want stand in the pocket and trade with Lawler. MacDonald's stand-up is first-rate, though, and can easily circle away from punches.

Point is: MacDonald knows what he is doing. There is no way in hell he makes a costly mistake, though he did get knocked down in the third round of his first fight with Lawler and was put away with seconds to spare by Carlos Condit earlier in his UFC run.

He just needs to fight smart.

That wraps it up on my end, Maniacs! Remember, let us hear your voice in the comment section. Thanks and enjoy the fights everyone.

Oh, and remember to stay with MMAmania for all things UFC 189, including live coverage, post-fight recaps and much more!

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