Robbie Lawler began his second stint with the UFC in February 2013. Lawler's record in his eight Strikeforce fights prior to rejoining the UFC was a rather lackluster 3-5. If you would have polled fans and pundits on the potential upside of Lawler prior to his fight with Josh Koscheck on February 23, 2013 odds are that few, if any, would have said No. 1 ranked contender in the UFC's welterweight division.
Yet, that's where Lawler currently sits after going 3-1 in his four fights since transferring to the UFC from Strikeforce. Lawler's (22-10-0-1) sole loss during that run was a unanimous decision loss to Johny Hendricks at UFC 171. That fight, for the vacant UFC welterweight crown, was scored 48-47 in favor of Hendricks by all three judges.
The general consensus on Lawler's recent run seems to be that the 32-year-old veteran of the sport has finally put everything together and is ready to make a run at UFC gold. One person who isn't buying into that is the man Lawler will face on Saturday night at UFC 173. That man, No. 5 ranked UFC welterweight Jake Ellenberger, speaking at Thursday's media day, seems to feel the Lawler hype may be unjustified, "I think that's been a little bit overblown. He beat a guy like Bobby Voelker (and) a few guys that aren't top ten guys, sure. He had an impressive win over (Josh) Koscheck, also who hasn't been really relevant in a long time, but I'm excited to fight him."
The one win that Ellenberger did not mention was Lawler's UFC 167 split decision victory over Rory MacDonald. Ellenberger's last fight was a July 27, 2013 unanimous decision loss to MacDonald. UFC president Dana White speaking on Fuel TV, said of Ellenberger that night, "I thought Jake Ellenberger did nothing - literally nothing at all" in his loss to MacDonald. During UFC 173 media day, Ellenberger summed up his performance that night as "an off night," and said he has made some adjustments since that defeat.
Ellenberger said of his quickly approaching fight with Lawler, "Every fight is important, but this is the most important fight by far. I'm getting the opportunity to fight the number one guy in the world. For me it's definitely a pivotal fight, but at the same time, that's the guys that I want to fight."