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UFC 181 Results: The Sober Play by Play - Why the Decision for Hendricks vs. Lawler II was not a Robbery

A "did our eyes deceive us?" play by play on rewatch for Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler II. Did the judges get it right for once?

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

It's easy to recall what we've just seen, and think that any question about what we can directly observe can be answered with an accuracy our biology has not equipped us with. After all, our vision wasn't genetically passed down to us by Ego the Living Planet. Instead it was molded, and shaped by a landscape that was light on resources.

Our brains are built on two systems per the great Daniel Khaneman. One system that is automatic, and one that requires mobilization. The strain between the two can occur from the slightest of disturbances. Consider our ability to create celebrities out of thin air. The study linked is about memory illusions, and how the more familiar we are with a name we had never before seen, the more likely it is for that name to be relevant later on in a different, but unrelated context. To quote Larry Jacoby on the illusion of remembering: "the experience of familiarity has a simple but powerful quality of 'pastness' that seems to indicate that it is a direct reflection of prior experience."

Keep in mind, I can keep going. And going. But you get the point.

It's with this heavy handed point in mind that I'd like to return to the action minus the distraction of beer, gyro sandwiches, and spilling a container of ketchup near my new tennis shoes as I did watching it in a theatre last night. On first viewing, I had it for Hendricks. Was I victim of inattentional blindness just like Joe Rogan and many others?

Round 1

Cool. I'm not staring down a pair of fries while trying to see if anyone is about to get merked. The stairdown is still really strange. Hendricks is trying to be funny, I think. Then again maybe he's just poking at a blackhead or something.

So Lawler comes out with a quick flurry but finds the majority of his success with the knees being thrown. At 4:06 they're officially clinched up against the fence. Lawler, despite being pressed against the fence, stays active. He's throwing a lot of knees to the body. He lands a solid knee up high at the 2:41 mark. Hendricks keeps looking for the takedown, and Lawler keeps throwing sporadic knees to the body inside the clinch. They finally separare with 1:26 left. Johny throws a solid little outburst, though nothing heavy lands outside of a good leg kick.

They kind of paw at each other, until Johny explodes with another good combination at the :40 mark, landing the leg kick the hardest with his punches getting partially blocked. He scores a takedown at the end, and does no damage with it. If you're a critic of Cecil Peoples, and MMA judging in general, yet scored that round for Hendricks, your Cecil Peoples Hate card has just been revoked.

Round 2

This one is pretty interesting. After all, Glenn Trowbridge scored this round for Lawler, and it's the only round scored for Lawler by anyone other than Trowbridge. It starts with Hendricks early. For the first two minutes he's throwing a left right combination punctuated with a leg kick that increasingly becomes the story of this fight in relation to Hendricks' offense. Nothing truly big lands except for the leg kicks. A lot of punches sort of glance, are half blocked, while some do land, but it's always the leg kick that hits the hardest. He attempts a takedown close to the 3:00 mark. Lawler gets in what elbows he can as Johny struggles to put Lawler fully on his back. Lawler finally separates until the 1:20 mark and they're once again in the center of the octagon. As soon as Robbie gets up, he lands a short chopping front kick on Hendricks' jaw at the 1:09 mark.

Lawler stalks Hendricks though Johny throws a few combinations while backpedaling. They look a bit awkward as two left hands sail way over Robbie's head (perhaps giving judges the appearance he may have been hurt by the kick?). Johny remains active though. At this point he's using his combinations to land the leg kicks. He lands a nice right hook, and follows it up with two solid leg kicks in succession. Johny is still the more active fighter. Robbie lands a solid left hand. Johny counters with his own and then Lawler counters with another big uppercut. Johny keeps coming forward until Lawler throws a kick, and slips. With three or four seconds left, Hendricks attempts a guillotine that Lawler has to roll out of.

It's impossible to see what exactly Trowbridge is looking at. Hendricks controls the first two minutes with crisp leg kicks, while Lawler lands nothing. Even if this is bizarro world, and judges give a lot of credit to defending takedowns while staying active with sporadic elbows to the side of the head, they're only locked against the fence for a minute and a half. Not only does Hendricks remain more active afterword, but he also scores a nice "oh wait!" moment with the attempted last second guillotine. It's Hendricks for 3:30 staying active going forward versus Lawler defending backwards for 1:30. The only asterisk here is the front kick, which Hendricks immediately recovers from, nor is knocked down by.

Round 3

More of the same. Lawler just isn't throwing while Hendricks unleashes a quick one two followed with a leg kick. Hendricks lands the best punches, and this is a round in dispute by no one. At this point it was hard to figure out exactly what the trajectory for the fight was. My guess is that Lawler had an actual strategy to land strikes in close, perhaps suspecting that Hendricks wasn't gonna stand and bang like last time. He doesn't commit to anything at range, and Hendricks keeps coming forward.

Round 4

Another controversial round. Let's unpack this one.

Johny starts out with some flurries until the 4:12 mark when he finally goes for a takedown. This is where Hendricks gets so deep on his takedowns that the merger of Hendricks and Lawler against the fence combine to look like a uvula.

The action is also when the crowd begins booing. Herb Dean separates them at the 3:30 mark. Still, Hendricks is staying active, throwing his jab, and mixing it up with the odd left, right. He lands what is easily the best sequence on the feet in this round at 2:47 - a right hook, straight left combination. The one thing Hendricks isn't doing is throwing his leg kicks off his combinations. Lawler lands a solid, but partially blocked head kick at the 1:59 mark coming off a not blocked left hand. Johny gets a takedown at the 1:32 mark in the center of the octagon. Lawler defends it and gets back up. Now Lawler comes forward even though Johny is more active. He gets Lawler up against the fence at the :48 mark. At the :27 mark Lawler stays very active pouding Johny with punches and elbows. Hendricks lies completely still throughout his whole sequence.

To me this one is legitimately tough to score. Hendricks has the better singular moments taken as a whole, but Lawler has the more sustained attack. It's also hard to evaluate Lawler's attack at the end. Hendricks doesn't move at all, and just eats everything. Was he hurt?

Round 5

This round was clearly Robbie's. Hendricks kept attempting the same takedown, except stopped throwing, and Lawler basically took the round off the strength of his takedown defense and a 30 second display of brutality I haven't seen since the George Lucas special editions.

So basically, this fight wasn't a robbery, even though Trowbridge's scoring of the 2nd round was a travesty.

To me, the correct scoring should have been 10-9 Lawler R1, 10-9 Hendricks R2, 10-9 Hendricks R3, 10-10 R4, 10-9 Lawler R5. I realize there is a metaphysical case for "no draws" according to some, but to me that's just nonsense. If two fighters stood in the middle of the cage for 5 minutes and just stared at each other without a Heath Herring "I'm not gay!" moment, would it be just to give it to the fighter with green eyes just because?

Anyway, I thought it was a decent fight that shouldn't be viewed against the lofty expectations of their first battle. Both guys made some questionable decisions, but it seems fitting that only a trilogy can settle it.