Robbie Lawler has nothing to prove at this stage in his mixed martial arts (MMA) career. The current Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight champion has beaten every 170-pound threat under the sun and has done so with fists of fury. He has dismantled the likes of Johny Hendricks, Carlos Condit and Rory MacDonald in becoming one of the most entertaining and gutsiest champions in the sport today.
However, Lawler will be facing current American Top Team teammate Tyron Woodley later tonight (Sat., July 30, 2016) at UFC 201 live on pay-per-view (PPV) from Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, for the undisputed Welterweight title. Both fighters know one another very well, which means "Chosen One" will offer "Ruthless" obstacles that he has yet to hurdle. Due to this familiarity and Woodley's unprecedented athleticism, UFC 201 may be Lawler's toughest test to date. That's why the champ will be the one fighter to keep an eye on tonight in "A-Town."
As one of the most productive offensive fighters in MMA today, Lawler also takes on a lot of damage in the process of landing his own momentum-swinging shots. That's why many of his UFC title fights, specifically his rematch with Hendricks and five-round barn burner with "The Natural Born Killer," resulted in Lawler needing to amp up the output in the championship rounds. Lawler's willingness to get hit in the early going often lands him in trouble, but his well-tested chin allows him to stick around. That said, the cat-and-mouse game he tends to play gives his opponent's more opportunities than they should have.
Later tonight at UFC 201, against a powerful challenger like Woodley, Lawler needs to show that he can not only be efficient with his exchanges on the feet, but that he can threaten to finish the fight early. It's a task easier said than done, especially considering Nate Marquardt is the only man to ever finish "Chosen One," but Lawler is the type of fighter who can end anyone's night earlier than expected.
While Lawler hasn't been taken down in either one of his UFC title defenses, he is susceptible to strong wrestlers against the cage. This was proven more than one time by Hendricks, Jake Ellenberger and MacDonald. It will be interesting to see how well Lawler can defend Woodley's shots -- and there will be shots -- considering Woodley has gained knowledge of the champ's weaknesses firsthand.
Lawler's gameplan is always pretty self explanatory, but Woodley will be able to give him problems wherever the fight may go. Expect an unusually cautious champion who aims to finish the fight quicker than the five-round monstrosities he's used to conducting.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 201 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 2 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.