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UFC 173: Barao vs. Dillawshaw - Robbie Lawler vs. Jake Ellenberger preview and prognostication

Robbie Lawler returns from his WW title fight to face Jake Ellenberger in a bout between two heavy handed competitors that is sure to have a lot of fans clenching their teeth in anticipation, and sympathy.

Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

Robbie Lawler vs. Jake Ellenberger Welterweight

Yes! Try criticizing this card now, you silly Dana bashing wannabe journalist!

To be sure, this fight is, in a word...brilliant.

So brilliant that it deserves to be presented by Toho Company, Ltd.

I didn't like that movie. Where were all the car chases, and pornographic shots of Americans in peril?

Well at least two Americans will be in peril this weekend.

Robbie Lawler's success continues to surprise me. It's not that he's a bad fighter. Obviously, while dumb, I'm not that dumb. It's that he feels so much like an anachronism. He's not particularly well rounded. He's not even especially technical. And yet, his power and durability net him victories. He's not a skilled fighter. Rather, he's a fighter with skills.

He's had a monstrous career since losing to Lorenz Larkin in 2012. In his title fight with Johny Hendricks, he was on the cusp of being the welterweight champion with the 5th round for the taking. However, at 32 years of age not is his window closing, but losing that title fight must have been demoralizing given all the hard work that to be so close...

Yea but he's fighting Jake Ellenberger who I remember boring us to death against Rory MacDonald.

It takes two to tango with the intention of putting the audience to sleep before your opponent.

It was an awful fight because Jake Ellenberger couldn't adjust to Rory's linear, but effective gameplan. MMA fans love blaming the winner because god forbid you don't finish a fight with a five point palm exploding heart technique.

But Jake needed to adjust to the all night jab festival Rory laid on him, and didn't. If you're losing the fight, the onus is on you to force the action.

Call it the burden of violence principle.

So Jake lost to Rory while Lawler beat Rory. Thanks! Now I know who to pick.

Not so fast, Ramanujan.

First off, Ellenberger at +190 is scary good odds.

Let's consider their respective third rounds against Rory. Lawler faded while Ellenberger started to press the action. So their common opponent doesn't tell us much even in just looking at the results.

I talk about Lawler as if he's not skilled, and that's obviously not the point. The biggest improvement in Lawler's game and the reason he's found continued success is that he's become much better of staying upright. He's discovered what Melvin Guillard hasn't: the ability to be defensively adept enough on the ground to avoid the type of panic grapplers relish in the way they provide opportunities and openings.

In addition, Lawler bides his time. He's not just swinging for the one punch. He's throwing the jab. He's stringing punches together, and measuring his opponent in ways he never did when he was younger. Lawler is the proverbial symbol of how experience can be meaningful beyond an arbitrary soundbite.

The other thing is his cardio. I wouldn't have expected Lawler to be in the fight the way he was against Hendricks going into the 5th. While Lawler wilted, he wilted because Hendricks was hitting him with brutal punches, and he was getting rocked. Not because he suddenly ran out of gas.

I think Hendricks has the kind of raw power that is just a a few synapses shy of the brain melting ability that Ellenberger's fists contain. The difference is that where Hendricks is quicker, and throws in combination, Jake is looking for the one shot.

That was his problem against Rory. He couldn't find any other way to land in close, so he allowed himself the predictability of moving forward hunting with the same weapon.

I lean towards Robbie because his takedown defense is not only good by itself, but he has an uncanny ability to pop right back up. In a three round fight, you have to favor that kind of durability.

In addition, Lawler's chin is top notch and I suspect he's much more likely to take Jake's best Sunday punch than Jake is able to take Robbie's.

Still, it's not out of the realm of possibility; the notion that Jake shocks the world and knocks Lawler out. The very first thing that goes for the iconic tough guys is what defined their toughness to begin with; the ability to absorb punishment. For as tough as Lawler is, physiology has its limits. Because there are as many UFC's as there are hot meals, it's important to note that Robbie's bout with Hendricks was only two months ago.

It was a brutal 5 round fight. Taking punishment is not something that experience sharpens and hones. I'm kind of shocked (well, not really) he's fighting so soon after a five rounder like that. Is there a better candidate to be only the second guy to separate Lawler from his consciousness?

Still, I'll go with Lawler for not showing many signs of deteriorating, and for being the better fighter on the feet.

Robbie Lawler by Decision.