It is a fight that has been teased for nearly a year now. On one side of the cage, former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler. On the other, the re-invented Donald Cerrone, who is now 3-1 since moving up to welterweight after spending most of his career in the lightweight division. There’s only one way to describe this fight’s potential: chaotic violence.
Lawler has been in two of the greatest wars in UFC history. In 2015, he went up against Rory MacDonald at UFC 189 and retained his belt. In 2016, he kicked the year off against Carlos Condit. UFC analyst Joe Rogan once labeled Lawler as a “blood-and-guts brawler.” As someone who has left plenty of his blood inside the Octagon, “Ruthless” is the perfect nickname for Lawler. He’ll continue to press forward regardless of how much damage he takes.
Lawler’s reign at the top of the welterweight mountain was ended when Tyron Woodley scored a knockout to take the belt in what was viewed as an upset by many people. Since the knockout loss, Lawler has done what many fighters refuse to do: he has taken time off and allowed his body to recover from the punishment instead of jumping back into the mix and trying to win his belt back as quickly as possible.
In his return to the Octagon, Lawler shouldn’t be expected to come out and look to rush in and create havoc to start the fight. A patient Lawler is a smart Lawler. Although he must stay aware of the head kicks and overall kicks from Cerrone, Lawler also has to be able to time his strikes while staying out of range. This could be a big key for the “Ruthless” one.
As for “Cowboy” Cerrone, no one — except maybe Lawler — is more willing to scrap against anyone, anywhere and any time. A former lightweight title challenger, Cerrone entered the welterweight division at UFC 202 last August and went on a three-fight winning streak upon his arrival. The streak was derailed by Jorge Masvidal, whom Cerrone faced just over a month after fighting Matt Brown at UFC 206.
One advantage Cerrone may have is with his length and body structure, which is similar to his Jackson-Winkeljohn teammate Condit. Condit has gone through his own war with Lawler and had a few moments of momentum in a title fight that ended in Lawler’s favor by split decision.
Neither fighter will be running into this fight with guns blazing, looking to make a statement. The beauty of this fight is not just the technical striking standpoint of both fighters, but their timing with their strikes. The way these fighters engage and land combos is a thing of beauty and easily sets up a possible performance bonus for one or both men.
As if these reasons weren’t enough to make you watch this fight, then throw in the fact that the aforementioned welterweight champ Woodley fights the same night. The winner between Lawler and Cerrone could quite possibly be very close to a title shot. UFC President Dana White said at the UFC 214 press conference that the winner of Woodley’s fight against Demian Maia is in line to face former champion Georges St-Pierre next. If GSP doesn’t return, Cerrone or Lawler could step up to challenge for the crown.