Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight hitters Corey Anderson and Tom Lawlor will square off this Saturday (March 5, 2016) at UFC 196 inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
After winning The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 19, Anderson has proven himself a solid member of the Light Heavyweight division. He's won four of his last five fights, showing improvement and doing well against an increasing level of competition.
On the other hand, Lawlor returned from a lengthy layoff in a new division. Though the fight was not going well early on, Lawlor roared back with a fantastic counter punch knockout. Now, he'll look to prove that win was no fluke by dispatching one of the division's top prospects.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both athletes:
Key Wins: Jan Blachowicz (UFC 191), Fabio Maldonado (UFC Fight Night 77), Matt Van Buren (TUF 19 Finale)
Key Losses: Gian Villante (UFC on FOX 15)
Keys to Victory: Anderson is a solid wrestler with good boxing, but his biggest weapon is his conditioning. "Beastin' 25/8" does his best to live up to that absurd nickname by dragging his opponent into deep waters and exhausting him.
In this bout, Anderson's main goal should be avoiding making any serious mistakes. He should have the wrestling and striking edge to dictate the pace and range, plus his usual conditioning edge will be a big help.
However, Lawlor is a dangerous veteran. If Anderson leaves his neck out while shooting or lunges in with a wild punch, he could very easily find himself in a terribly dangerous situation.
To avoid such an error, Anderson should attempt to keep this on the fight and work from range. He's the bigger and longer fighter, so he should be able to do good work on the outside. He'll have to be wary of his foe's counter punches, but Anderson's extra reach should help him avoid that knockout blow.
If he can avoid that threat, it should be smooth sailing for the wrestler.
Record: 10-5 (1)
Key Wins: Gian Villante (UFC on FOX 16), Patrick Cote (UFC 121), C.B. Dollaway (UFC 100)
Key Losses: Chris Weidman (UFC 139), Francis Carmont (UFC 154)
Keys to Victory: Lawlor has never been the most consistent fighter, but he's always been a skilled opportunist and is fairly well-rounded. A strong wrestler with slick chokes and one punch knockout power, Lawlor has finished eight of his opponents.
As I partially explained above, Lawlor doesn't have any major technical advantages here. He's likely the sharper jiu-jitsu player, but unless he finds a way to take down the bigger wrestler, that's not likely to play into this much.
Similarly, Lawlor may have more one punch knockout power, but he throws at a lower volume and has never been a consistent knockout artist.
With all that in mind, this is another case of a fight where the veteran must pull something out of his hat in order to win. Essentially, Lawlor has to figure out which of the tricks in his game -- he's been a professional for nearly 10 years now, so he should have a few -- will be effective opposite Anderson.
In all likelihood, Lawlor's best chance at winning this fight is another counter punch knockout. If it doesn't come on its own, Lawlor may need to attempt to force a brawl, as Anderson does occasionally over-extend himself while on the offensive.
Bottom Line: This is another test for one of Light Heavyweight's few true prospects.
Anderson is just 26 years old and is only three years into his professional career. Despite that inexperience, he's already a Top 15-ranked fighter. He may not be lighting the world aflame with violent finishes, but Anderson has performed remarkably well and has all the makings of a future contender.
More than anything else, this fight affects his timing. If Anderson wins here, he'll continue to move up the ladder and get tougher fights. Alternatively, a loss shows that Anderson needs more experience and development as a fighter before he can challenge the Top 10.
At this point in Lawlor's career, making a title run seems unlikely. However, Lawlor can still carve out a solid position for himself as an action fighter and gate keeper, as Light Heavyweight needs all the skilled, in shape fighters it can find.
This fight is really the first example of him fulfilling that role. His last victory secured his position on the roster and showed that he still had something left in the tank following two years on the sidelines. Now, he's hoping to fight with some regularity.
If Lawlor wins or loses a few in a row, his position may change, but this fight alone probably will not affect him all that much.
At UFC 196, Corey Anderson and Tom Lawlor will throw down. Which fighter will remain standing when the dust settles?